Gannon Volleyball Advances to First Ever Final Four

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The Gannon Volleyball team soared to new heights on Thursday (Dec. 7) in the NCAA Division II Elite Eight tournament. The Lady Knights rolled to a 3-0 sweep of the Regis Rangers in the national quarterfinal round. Gannon defeated Regis, 25-20, 28-26, 25-17. Postgame comments from Gannon are available here. 

The Lady Knights won the first set in program history at the Elite Eight tournament, with the 25-20 victory in set one. The victory also puts Gannon in the national semifinals, tying the furthest any Gannon women’s athletic team has ever advanced in an NCAA tournament. 

The Lady Knights and Rangers battled in set one on Thursday. The match was tied at 13 before a kill from Ashley Kerestes (Loves Park, Ill./Rockford Lutheran) jumpstarted a 4-0 run to put Gannon up 17-13. Back-to-back Regis points had the Rangers back to within 17-15 before Gannon reeled off another three points, including a Kerestes kill. Gannon closed out the set with a Kelsey Ansec (Solon, Ohio/Solon) liner, 25-20.

Regis pushed out to a 6-2 lead in set two as the Rangers had early momentum. Regis maintained a 15-10 lead midway through the set as Gannon looked to claw back. The teams traded points as Regis inched closer to 25, still in control, 23-18. Rebekah Smith (Churchville, N.Y./Churchville-Chili) issued a kill to get the Lady Knights back to within four, 23-19. Ally Smith (Penfield, N.Y./Webster Schroeder)made it back-to-back kills for the Lady Knights, 23-20. Regis’s Caitlyn Burroway pushed the Rangers to set point with a kill, up 24-20. Gannon wasn’t going away, though. Three Ranger attack errors had the Lady Knights within one, 24-23. Ansec delivered the tying point with a kill and Gannon completed the comeback with an Ashley Beyers (Lanark, Ill./Eastland) service ace, 28-26.

Gannon had the clear momentum headed to the third set. The Lady Knights pushed out to a 9-4 lead on a Maggie Wilhelm (Euclid, Ohio/Lake Catholic) service ace. The Lady Knights extended the lead to 14-6 on two more Ansec kills. The Rangers followed with a mini 6-2 run to pull back within 16-12. The Rangers couldn’t close the gap, however. Gannon finished the set outscoring Regis, 9-5, and taking the set, 25-17.

Ansec led the Lady Knights with 17 kills on 38 attempts. She hit at a .289 clip.

A. Smith recorded her 15th double-double of the season with 11 kills and 11 digs. 

Beyers led the Lady Knights in assists with 28, while Toni Leitshuh (Manhattan, Ill./Lincoln-Way Central) had a team-high 12 digs. 

Gannon had the advantage in the serving department. The Lady Knights recorded eight service aces and only one service error. Regis tallied five aces but committed six key errors.

Gannon improved to 32-6 on the season. The 32 victories are the fourth-most single-season wins in school history. The Lady Knights have also won 30 matches in a season for the sixth time.

Regis finished its season at 31-4. They were making their first Elite Eight appearance since 1998. Regis was tied for ninth in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) top 25 rankings.

Gannon qualified for its ninth consecutive NCAA tournament appearance under Matt Darling this year. The Lady Knights advanced the the Elite Eight after snapping Wheeling Jesuit’s 20-match win streak in NCAA Atlantic Regional play dating back to 2010. The Cardinals had won six consecutive NCAA Atlantic Regional championships. Their last loss in the NCAA Atlantic Regional came at the hands of Clarion in the 2010 regional semifinals.

No. 7-seeded Gannon will play the No. 3-seeded Florida Southern Moccasins on Friday, Dec. 8, in Pensacola, Fla.  The Final Four match will be at 6 p.m. (ET). Florida Southern advanced to the semifinals with a 3-1 victory over Cal State San Bernardino on Thursday.

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