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Lady Knights Favorite in Western Division in PSAC Coaches' Preseason Poll

Published: 08/31/2021

Lady Knights Favorite in Western Division in PSAC Coaches' Preseason Poll

Lady Knights Favorite in Western Division in PSAC Coaches' Preseason Poll

The Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference today announced the 2021 PSAC Volleyball Coaches' Preseason Poll, with Gannon University the favorite to win the Western Division. The Lady Knights received eight of the nine first place votes that were cast by the division's nine coaches, or in essence, were the unanimous choice.

This marks the fourth straight year (note: there was no poll in 2020) that Gannon has been chosen a divisional preseason favorite. Clarion received the remaining first place vote and was picked to finish second in the Western Division. Seton Hill was voted third, while Mercyhurst is fourth. Indiana(Pa.) claimed the fifth spot, followed by Edinboro and Cal U. Slippery Rock and Pitt-Johnstown round out the nine-team Western Division. 

In the eight-team Eastern Division, Shepherd, the 2019 PSAC runner-up, received four first place votes to lock down the top spot. Millersville and Shippensburg had a pair of first place votes and are second and third, respectively. East Stroudsburg, the 2019 PSAC champion, was voted fourth. West Chester was picked to finish fifth, with Bloomsburg sixth, Kutztown seventh, and Lock Haven eighth.

Gannon finished the COVID-shortened 2021 campaign with an 18-4 record and was selected to play in the AVCA National Championships. Head coach Matt Darling's squad would go 2-4 at the National Championships, with wins over Texas Woman's and Arkansas Fort Smith.

The Lady Knights ended the season ranked 17th in the final AVCA Division II Top 25 poll, after climbing as high as eighth during the season. The eighth-place ranking represented the highest in school history. The Lady Knights have now qualified for the postseason the last 12 years, the previous 11 in the NCAA Division II Tournament.

Darling enters his 15th season as head coach and ranks as Gannon's all-time leader in wins with a 320-129 record. His squads have won two Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championships along with 11 NCAA Tournament appearances.

Gannon returns plenty of firepower, led by a pair of 2019 AVCA Honorable Mention All-Americans in redshirt senior setter Ashley Beyers (Lanark, Ill./Eastland) (Lanark, Ill./Eastland) and redshirt senior middle blocker Ashley Kerestes (Loves Park, Ill./Rockford Lutheran) (Loves Park, Ill./Rockford Lutheran). Beyers is a two-time All-PSAC first team selection, while Kerestes was a first team choice in 2019 and earned second team accolades in 2017.

In addition, Lauren Sampson (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Davidson) (Hilliard, Ohio/Hilliard Davidson), a senior outside hitter, was a second team All-PSAC pick in 2019, and was a first team honoree and the 2018 PSAC Freshman of the Year. Senior setter/defensive specialist Ashley McClung (Charleston, W.Va./George Washington) (Charleston, W.Va./George Washington) is a two-time All-PSAC pick, earning second team honors in 2018 and third team in 2019.

Gannon turned in a promising showing in an exhibition match on Sunday at Bowling Green, dropping a tight 3-1 decision to a Falcons' squad that was 22-2 a year ago and participated in the NCAA Division I National Championships.

The Lady Knights will officially open the 2021 campaign on September 3-4, competing in the Molloy Tournament.

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