Knights climb to top of PSAC

It’s lonely at the top.

This is something the Gannon University women’s volleyball team has become happily aware of since its 3-0 victory over California University of Pennsylvania Saturday made it the last team in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference to be undefeated in conference play.

The Knights were looking to bounce back from their narrow loss to regional foe Wheeling Jesuit University on Tuesday, when they gave up a 10-point lead in the third set to give the Cardinals a chance to steal the momentum and the victory.

Undeterred by this loss, the team went on to sweep its conference opponents Friday and Saturday, beating Indiana University of Pennsylvania and Cal in three straight sets each.

That makes the Knights the top-ranked team in the conference, and the target is now on their backs. But coach Matt Darling said he believes the pressure will instead be on the other conference teams in the weeks to come.

“Pressure is always part of a game where there are winners and losers,” he said. “In the past two years, we’ve had the pressure to try to make it into the playoffs. As long as we continue to win, the pressure will actually be on the other teams more than it will be on us.”

For the past two seasons, Gannon has come extremely close to advancing from the regional round of the NCAA tournament, falling both times to Wheeling Jesuit, which has become a lingering thorn in its side.

But right now, it’s all about Gannon, and junior outside hitter Lauren Sazama said she is confident in her team’s ability to continue winning.

“It was mainly our passing that killed us against Wheeling,” she said. “Our serve receive was horrible. But we really picked it up this weekend and we were able to run our offense.”

Sazama finished the weekend by recording her seventh straight double-double with 12 kills and 12 digs Saturday against Cal, proving that not only is she a dangerous attacker, but also a diligent defender.

However, Sazama is not alone in her efforts to bolster the team to victory. In Friday’s match against IUP, Sazama was the only player to accumulate double-digit kills, but seven other Gannon attackers contributed at least two kills in the win. This was made possible by improved passing and leadership from senior setter Alex DelPiombo, who finished the weekend with 41 assists.

One of these other outlets utilized by DelPiombo was junior middle hitter, Sarah Glancy. Glancy, whose strong serving has been a point of stability for the team, was also an offensive threat on Friday and Saturday. She finished the weekend with 11 kills, seven block assists and four aces.

Sazama said that although the team has struggled on the road this year, with all of its losses coming on away matches against nonconference teams, she believes the Knights can change that.

“As we found out on Tuesday, when we let up on one thing, other parts of our game suffer as well,” she said. “But I think being first in the conference will help us push each other to keep winning in the future, especially on the road.”

Darling also said that having an experienced group of seniors is an asset to the team.

“Having five seniors gives us a bit of an advantage on most nights,” he said. “There simply isn’t a substitute for experience, and we have enough of it to help us deal with the day-to-day as well as in big matches.”

The Knights will look to continue their unprecedented start to the season with crossover matches against West Chester, Kutztown and Cheyney universities when they hit the road Friday.

“We’ve never started the conference season with eight straight wins,” Darling said. “I’m not sure how the players feel about it, but our coaching staff will continue to approach every day and every week exactly as we did the previous week. We’ll continue to do our work one day at a time.”


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