The No. 3 Gannon University women’s basketball team punched its ticket to the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division II tournament Sunday evening.
The Knights, coming off a rare defeat, received a bid to the tournament for the ninth time in the past 15 years. Gannon will take on Shaw University at noon Friday in Glenville, W. Va.
Coach Jim Brunelli said he feels previous accomplishments this season will aid the Knights to victory Friday.
“We have been successful on that court,” Brunelli said. “We are familiar with what goes on in Glenville.
“Not too many people have success in that building.”
Glenville State College currently holds a 28-3 record overall, and was awarded the top seed in the Atlantic Region after defeating the University of Charleston 74-50 in the Mountain East Conference championship.
The Knights defeated Glenville 90-84 in Glenville, W. Va., on Nov. 16 in route to snapping their 20-game win streak.
Brunelli said the team didn’t finish the season with the momentum he was hoping for, but added that the Knights are hungry to get back in the win column.
Gannon found itself on the losing end of a game – for only the third time this season – to a familiar foe in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference championship Sunday.
The Knights were defeated by No. 25 Edinboro University 86-76. Gannon sports a 27-3 overall record this season with all three losses coming at the hands of the Fighting Scots.
Brunelli said every meeting with Edinboro is very competitive and reveals a rivalry atmosphere.
“They play their best when Gannon steps on the floor,” Brunelli said. “But we hung with them and we had our opportunities.”
Mollie Sebald, a junior guard, said that Edinboro is a strong opponent, but added that there wasn’t much separating the two squads.
“I feel as though we are pretty evenly matched and all three times, the only thing that separated us was a few big plays that went their way,” Sebald said.
Jen Papich, a senior forward, said she feels that another matchup against Edinboro would end with a Gannon victory.
“We missed some key shots that had potential to secure the lead for us,” Papich said. “But it is also very hard to beat a team when a player scores 33 points.
“If we see Edinboro again on this journey, I am sure an individual going off like that will not happen again.”
Brunelli said he was pleased with the Knights’ overall performance in the PSAC tournament.
Gannon squeaked past California University of Pennsylvania 62-57 Tuesday in its first action of the PSAC tournament, which was hosted in the Hammermill Center. The Knights followed their win with a 57-51 victory over Bloomsberg University Saturday at Edinboro.
“In the game against Bloomsburg, team defense was tremendous,” Brunelli said. “We held their two top scorers under their season averages.”
Sebald said she agreed with her coach, and added that she thought the Knights gave it their all in the PSAC tournament.
“We beat Cal and Bloomsburg, which are both good teams and we played our hearts out against Edinboro,” Sebald said. “I don’t think we could have given a better effort I just wish that things would have gone our way in the end.”
Brunelli said there was a great deal of positives that his team could take away from its PSAC tournament experience. He said the team learned a valuable lesson about how difficult it is to play games in a short amount of time.
Brunelli said the team will continue to practice and work hard to reach its goal of playing in front of hometown fans in the Erie Insurance Arena for an Elite Eight matchup, but noted that his team had a long and tough journey ahead of it.
Papich said that journey starts against Shaw University.
“For us to win this Friday, we will need to be focused on each other and all of the work we put in,” Papich said. “It’s easy at this point to become caught up in the pressure and excitement that comes with tournament time.
“But, the teams that do well are able to focus on each moment. Never looking ahead and never looking back. If we can play Gannon basketball, we will be successful.”