The Gannon University women’s volleyball team was recently granted an opportunity at redemption against a familiar foe following a disappointing 3-2 loss to Seton Hill in the first round of the PSAC tournament Nov. 11.
The Knights were selected Sunday as the No. 5 seed in the NCAA Division II Atlantic Regional Tournament, and will continue their season against Seton Hill – for the fourth time this season – at 5 p.m. Thursday in Wheeling, W.Va.
Coach Matt Darling said that his team had a very good year and the selection came as no surprise to his squad that currently sports a dominant 24-6 overall record with a 17-5 mark in PSAC play. But there always has to be a little anxiety while leaving a team’s postseason aspirations in the hands of strangers.
“It’s always exciting to see your team’s name pop up on the selection show,” Darling said.
Gannon will join a field of 32 teams from around the country in hopes of being crowned the national champion in Louisville, Ky., and the journey starts Thursday. Seton Hill takes a 2-1 series advantage over Gannon into the first round of the Atlantic Regional. The Griffins handed the Knights their final two losses of the season to extend Gannon’s losing streak to a four-game skid to finish the PSAC season.
Darling said he respects the talent Seton Hill has showcased throughout the year.
“I would be surprised if the match was much different than the highly-competitive affair we had [Nov. 11],” Darling said. “But that is exactly what playoff volleyball should be.”
The Knights have had some success against the Griffins at home when they defeated Seton Hill 3-0 on Oct. 17. Darling said playing a team so many times during a season has led to an emphasis correcting offensive and defensive mismatches.
“We have been working on some of the matchup problems we had in our last match and hopefully that will enable us to score enough points to change the result,” Darling said. “I’m looking forward to it.”
Gannon also has four seniors – Megan Wendel, Taryn Graham, Emily Carver and Maggie Desrosiers – who are looking forward to a chance to extend their time in a Knight uniform.
Wendel and Graham were honored as members of the PSAC second team and teammates Hannah Kren and junior Lynne Hibbard were selected to the PSAC first team Thursday.
Darling said each member of the senior “core four” has handled the pressure differently as the season begins to come to a close.
“The seniors know that their next loss will be the end of their career,” Darling said. “I suppose that each of them views this fact differently, but hopefully it will bring about an inspired performance from each of them.”
Wendel said that she recently read a quote that embodied how she and her teammates have felt about the season.
“‘There is no growth without change, no change without fear or loss and no loss without pain,’” Wendel said. “We’ve been through the loss and fear and pain, but we are also growing because we are changing from our losses.
“We have learned something each time we played them and each time we are answering them, so I think we all feel strong and ready to play.”
The winner of Thursday’s contest will take on the winner of No. 1 Wheeling Jesuit and No. 8 Chowan at 7:30 p.m. Friday in Louisville.
This article by Connor Sondel originally appeared in The Gannon Knight on Nov. 19, 2014.