They say history tends to repeat itself, and that’s exactly what happened this week as the Gannon University volleyball team once again finished its week 3-1 at the Gannon-Mercyhurst Invitational on Friday and Saturday.
The Knights certainly lived up to their PSAC champion pedigree capturing their first win of the weekend 3-0, as they made quick work of winless Glenville State College. They then took their momentum on the day and defeated Hillsdale College in similar 3-0 fashion just hours after their first victory.
Gannon didn’t lose any energy from its step overnight versus Saint Michael’s College as the team would sweep its opponent in straight sets for the third time over the weekend.
The Knights’ only loss of the Invitational would come later that day against the University of Findlay; Gannon dropped the match 3-1.
Junior Carolyn Knollman spoke on the importance of taking care of games early with a long weekend ahead.
“Playing four games in a weekend can get very tiring, so it definitely helps when we sweep teams,” she said. “To me, there is such a big difference in playing three [sets] instead of going to five.
“When we are able to get the win in three sets that allows for more time for rest and treatment before our next game, which really benefits us in the long run.”
In game one against Glenville, the Knights would jockey back and forth with the Pioneers until Gannon took a 12-10 lead on an attack error from Glenville State.
Later in the set, Rebekah Smith added two kills to her stat sheet and extended the Knights’ lead to 19-16, which would spark a 6-1 run to finish the first set 25-17.
The second set was a different story as the Knights would hold their opponent to just seven points, a season-best for Gannon. A quick 13-2 lead led by kills from Ally Smith, Rebekah Smith, Toni Leitshuh and Ashley Kerestes paved the way to a smooth 25-7 victory.
In the driver’s seat, set three saw similarities to the first as the Knights would battle back and forth until freshman Aubree Lanman broke a 9-9 tie off a pass from Ashley Beyers. They then wouldn’t give up the lead for the rest of the set closing out the third set, and match, 25-19.
In game two of the day, Gannon trailed 3-1 early in the first set to Hillsdale before taking back the lead 8-6. After losing the lead, down 11-9, Kelsey Ansec delivered back-to-back kills to tie the set. Gannon then took the largest lead of the set, 19-16, with a Lexi Johnson liner and didn’t look back, sneaking past the Chargers, 25-23.
The second set saw similar energy as the first as a Maggie Wilhelm kill and a Knollman ace sparked the Knights early. But the Chargers would use an 8-4 run to take a 15-12 lead. Kerestes would spur a six-point run with a kill as Gannon retook an 18-15 lead. The Knights went on to win the set, 25-21.
In the third set, the Knights jumped out to an early 7-3 lead, but saw it quickly diminish as the Chargers tied it up at 8-8. After a timeout called by coach Matt Darling, Gannon would score eight of the next 10 points to take a commanding 16-10 lead. The Knights would finish the set on a 9-3 run to take the final set, 25-13.
On Saturday, Gannon proved it hadn’t lost a step from the day, prior popping out to a 14-7 lead against St. Michael’s on another Kerestes kill. Ally Smith and Brianna Brennan would team for a pair of kills during a five-point run that helped fuel a 25-11 set victory.
In set two, the Knights once again jumped out to a big early lead, this time at 13-3. Eventually up 20-10, Gannon scored five of the last six points, including one of Lydia Lukomski’s team-high 13 kills, to once again take the set, 25-11.
In the third set, St. Michael’s was the one to get out to a strong start. The Purple Knights took a 5-1 lead before Gannon rallied back to take the lead 6-5. The two teams went back-and-forth until Gannon took advantage of a 5-0 run to eventually seal the match, 25-20, capped by an Abby Kane service ace.
In Saturday’s second game, the 6-1 Knights and 6-0 Findlay College Oilers started off strong in the first set of the highly-anticipated matchup, trading points early on to tie the set at seven.
Ansec tallied a kill and a Lukomski ace put the Knights up 9-7 before Findlay would take the lead back at 16-13. Gannon fired back with four straight points with kills from Rebekah Smith, Leitshuh and Kerestes. Findlay would eventually take the set 25-23 with an Amanda Winner kill.
Set two turned out to be the longest rally of the weekend for both teams. Findlay led 23-20 before a Knollman kill and two miscues by the Oilers tied the set at 23.
Findlay was one point away from clinching the set, but couldn’t close. Gannon had the same opportunity with seven attempts at set points, but wouldn’t capitalize until a Smith kill from a Knollman set and a Findlay bad set ended the rally at 33-31.
Knollman said endurance and concentration are crucial when playing a long set.
“The second we start losing focus or make a mistake we start to play catch-up, and there is not a lot of time for us to do that,” she said. “Once the set gets past 25, the pressure to not make a mistake, yet get the job done, is in full effect and it takes every teammate’s focus to finish the set with a win.”
Findlay would control set three early, taking a 14-9 lead before a Gannon timeout. Smith would answer with a kill for the Knights, but the lead was too much and Findlay took the set 25-19.
The fourth set showed similarities to the first two with the Oilers and Knights battling until the end. With Gannon down 20-17, the Knights rattled off four consecutive points from Ally Smith kills. But Findlay would score the final five-of-six and pull out the 25-22 victory.
Knollman said she thought the Knights had a great weekend overall.
“Going 3-1 at the beginning of the season will not hurt us too much,” she said. “Although losing against Findlay was not fun for any of us, we are able to use it as a learning experience.”
“This will benefit us in the future so that when put up against another challenge, like Findlay was for us, we will be able to pull out a win.”
Ally Smith recorded her first career double-double with 11 kills and 21 digs while Ansec had a team-high 13 kills.
Wednesday night the Knights rebounded from their loss to Findlay with a shutout over Daeman College (N.Y).
In set one, Gannon took the Wildcats 25-18.
Set two followed the same pattern of set one as the Knights beat Daeman 25-18 again.
Set three proved successful for the Gannon defense as they held the Wildcats to 9 points.
In the end the Knights came out on top in the third set winning 25-9, sweeping the Wildcats 3-0.
Gannon returns to action at 7 p.m. Friday against Urbana University in Urbana’s tournament in Ohio.