Knights roll to fourth straight win


Coming in to the 2014-15 season for the Gannon women’s basketball team, questions lingered on how the team would fare after losing two starters in Kelley Sundberg and Jen Papich.

After a 30-4 season, the Knights have not missed a beat. They are red-hot entering the second half of conference play, riding a four-game winning streak and sitting third in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference West standings at 10-2 and 11-4 overall heading into Thursday’s 5:30 p.m. home matchup against California University of Pennsylvania at the Hammermill Center.

After dropping the first contest of the New Year at Millersville, Gannon has found a groove against quality teams, with three of its four wins coming against teams with winning records.

“I think our focus has been really good as of late,” coach Jim Brunelli said. “That first one after the break is always tough, but since then we’ve responded well and really have had good practices and competed day in and day out, regardless of the situation.”

The streak has been highlighted by a 76-70 home win on Jan. 10 against rival Edinboro – the only team to defeat the Knights last year.

“Everyone in the city had that game circled, and I was just so proud of our girls for responding the way they did when Edinboro made a run,” Brunelli said.

“It was nice to get the proverbial monkey off our back, but we know we see them again and we’ll have to be ready.”

The Gannon women have also recorded an unblemished 7-0 mark at home this year, making the Hammermill Center one of the toughest places to play in the PSAC with the Gannon men posting an impressive 8-2 record there as well.

Brunelli credits the depth of this team as a major reason for the success; while many teams are starting to wear down from the grueling season in one of the most competitive conferences in Division II women’s basketball, the Knights are just getting going.

“Amanda Berchtold has stepped in wonderfully at the point guard spot, putting pressure on the defense with her speed and distributing the ball,” he said. “And Candace Hendricks has stepped into a starting role and really has responded well.”

With veterans Nettie Blake, Mollie Sebald, Brittany Batts and Morgan Neighbors continuing their consistent play, the contributions of Berchtold, Hendricks, Brianna Brennan and true freshman McKenna Shives give the Gannon women flexibility Brunelli does not take for granted.

“It’s a luxury, knowing if someone gets in foul trouble or something happens, there’s players we have who can come in and not miss a beat,” he said.

The Gannon women are currently ranked fourth in the latest Atlantic Region poll, with eight teams from each region qualifying for the NCAA tournament.

Following Thursday’s home matchup against California (14-2), the Knights will make a quick turnaround and travel to Greensburg Saturday to take on Seton Hill University (7-10).

Thursday’s game with the Vulcans was originally scheduled for Wednesday; however, due to the death of California’s Shanice Clark, a senior women’s basketball student-athlete, officials at both schools announced Tuesday that the basketball doubleheader would be pushed back one day.    


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