Volleyball advances to the Elite Eight

Golden Knights will play in Tampa Thursday after becoming the 2021 NCAA Divison II Atlantic Region Champions.


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The Gannon University volleyball team will advance to the Elite Eight after becoming the 2021 NCAA Division II Atlantic Region Champions.

Timothy Corso, Staff Writer

The Gannon University women’s volleyball team advanced to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight for the third time in the last four seasons by claiming three straight wins at the NCAA Atlantic Regional Tournament last week in Wheeling, W. Va.

The Knights, with a record of 31-6, are seeded fifth heading into the Elite Eight and will open tournament play at 5 p.m. Thursday against No. 4 seed Hillsdale. The tournament will take place at the University of Tampa in Florida.

The winner of the Gannon-Hillsdale match will take on the winner of a 7:30 p.m. match pitting top seed and host Tampa against No. 8 seed Augustana. That semifinal game will be played at 7:30 p.m. Friday, and Saturday’s national championship match is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

Gannon reached the Elite Eight by sweeping host Wheeling University, 3-0, in Saturday’s Atlantic Regional final. The Knights won by scores of 25-18, 25-16 and 25-18.

Gannon earned a berth in the finals by blanking West Virginia State, 3-0, by scores of 25-19, 25-20 and 25-17, in Friday’s semifinals.

The Knights nearly never made it out of the tournament quarterfinals, dropping their first two games to PSAC for East Stroudsburg before rallying to win three straight games – 25-16, 25-7 and 15-2.

After losing 25-20 and 25-22 in the first two sets, Gannon was down 13-12 in the third, when it went on an 8-0 run courtesy of some big kills from Maddie Blake and East Stroudsburg attack errors.

The Knights won the third set 25-16.

From there on, Gannon cruised to a fourth-set win, 25-7, and a 15-2 fifth-set win.

The Knights were paced by Ashley McClung with 17 kills.

Ashley Kerestes and Blake each added 13 kills.

Ashley Beyers had herself a match with 53 assists.

Emma Hall had 27 digs for Gannon.

Gannon coach Matt Darling said after Saturday’s tournament championship game that he certainly was concerned after falling behind 2-0 in Thursday’s tournament opener.

“We were in big trouble in that third set,” he said at a press conference. “I was thinking, ‘What am I going to say to this team after we lose 3-0 in the first match after we had such big expectations?’

“I just have to give credit to these guys. It really was the seniors who in the huddle said, ‘We are not going out like this.’ And once we got rolling, then it was on.”

The win over West Virginia State Friday night featured a back-and-forth first and second set.

The second set was tied at 20-20 when Gannon went on a 5-0 run to take a commanding 2-0 lead.

In the third final set, trailing 9-8, the Knights again went on a 5-0 run.

That run put them up 13-9 and they never looked back.

In the regional championship match, the Knights trailed 6-5 in the first set and then went on an 8-1 run to go up 13-7.

Gannon went on to dominate the second set and wound up one set victory away from a trip to the Elite Eight in Tampa.

The Knights got off to a fast start with a 7-2 lead in the third set.

They finished off the sweep with help from Lauren Sampson, who had the last two kills to seal the deal.

Sampson wound up with 19 kills for Gannon. Kerestes had 14 while McClung added 10.

Beyers had 44 assists and 7 digs.

Hall contributed 18 digs in the victory.


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