Knights KO ‘Hurst, ‘Boro

The Gannon University women’s volleyball team recorded its seventh straight win and remains at the No. 1 spot in the PSAC after defeating both cross-town rivals Mercyhurst and Edinboro universities Friday and Saturday, but fell to non-conference foe University of Findlay last night 3-2.

The team’s 23-5 overall record represents the most wins the program has seen in a single season under the coaching of Matt Darling, who is currently in his sixth year with the Knights.

Darling said that the record number of wins means more than just a number.

“Since I’ve been here, we’ve never been this good,” he said.

He also said that the team appears to be peaking at just the right time after dismantling a strong Mercyhurst team that beat the Knights earlier in the season. The Knights have also, according to Darling, just completed a six-game stretch against PSAC West opponents, of which five were on the road.

“I think we’ll continue to build momentum this weekend, and hopefully that momentum will continue if and when we host some playoff games in the ‘Mill,” he said.

This past weekend, Darling said, was “a tale of two matches.” While he said that playing in front of an enthusiastic home crowd against rival Mercyhurst the team was “focused, motivated and energized,” it was a different story playing at Edinboro, which has not been having as strong a year as it has in the past.

“[It] was set up to be a classic letdown scenario,” Darling said. “We had an emotional win less than 24 hours before and had a hard time matching that emotion on Saturday.”

Because of this, Darling said the Knights had to count on big plays to close out tight sets. Blocking was a key factor at these moments. Senior middle hitter Sarah Glancy led the blocking effort with four total blocks against the Fighting Scots. Sophomore libero Taryn Graham rounded out the defensive numbers with a match-high 15 digs.

While the team is happy to hold on to the No. 1 conference spot, Darling said that the Knights are never happy with all aspects of their play. They have turned their focus of late to defense, and Darling said it has paid off. But he also said that with playoffs looming, they will again refocus on their strongest area – offense.

“[It] had been our bread and butter all year,” Darling said. “We’re young enough that I think some improvements in a few areas will continue even into late November.”

Though the team is young, it has largely relied on senior leadership from senior outside hitters Lauren Sazama – who has recorded her fifth PSAC athlete of the week award this season alone – and Morgan Reineke, as well as Glancy.

Gannon will take on Slippery Rock and Clarion universities at home Thursday and Saturday. A win against The Rock would ensure that all of Gannon’s conference playoff games would take place at the Hammermill Center.

 

CHRISTINE PEFFER

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