The Gannon University volleyball team broke the 20-win plateau over the weekend in impressive style.
With two sweeps against Seton Hill and California the Knights defeated teams with a combined record of 42-9 – an .823 winning percentage – and improved to 20-2 overall and 13-2 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.
Gannon remains unbeaten at the Hammermill Center, having not lost a single set.
Coach Matt Darling attributed the dominant weekend to his players’ practice efforts.
“The team practiced hard and prepared intelligently for that (Seton Hill) match, and we were ready for them,” Darling said.
“I think it was one of those nights when we just did so many things well and even though Seton Hill is tough and played pretty well themselves, we just had enough offense to stay in the lead all night.”
Senior leader Taryn Graham was locked in all week and confident in her team’s ability to beat two of the PSAC’s best volleyball teams. Her enthusiasm and love for the game showed clearly in both matches.
“It was awesome sweeping both Seton Hill and Cal at home this weekend,” the defensive specialist said. “We were so focused going into the weekend on Friday night. I don’t know if any team could have brought us down.”
But the two impressive weekend victories will not be celebrated long. Darling remains steadfast in his approach, one that has been very successful this season.
“Every match from this point forward is huge for us, starting on Friday night at Edinboro,” Darling said. “The top four teams are separated by just two wins and things can change quickly.
“We will prepare hard for every match, one match at a time.”
The PSAC West Division is as competitive as ever. First-place Clarion leads Gannon by one game while California and Seton Hill trail the Knights by a single game as well. Each team has 20 wins or more.
Graham and the rest of the Core Four plan to lead by example and guide the Knights into the playoffs and in the direction of another conference championship.
“This past week coach put an emphasis on serving tough and getting a good first touch on the ball,” Graham said. “This worked well for us through the weekend and is something we will continue to improve on going into the playoffs.”
Defense and leadership have headlined the 20-2 Knights this season. With away matches at Edinboro Friday night and Slippery Rock Saturday afternoon, Gannon will need both more than ever.
“This is a team with very good seniors and when you have good seniors, you have a chance to win every night,” Darling said.
Graham, Gannon’s all-time digs leader, is playing her best volleyball when the Knights need her most. The senior looks to continue her stellar play at libero – a key part to one of the best defenses in the conference – as the last seven regular season games unfold.
“Our defense is unstoppable right now,” Graham said. “It’s something we have focused on right from the start of the season and we are really starting to pull ahead from other teams in that aspect.”