Despite finishing last season 9-9, Gannon senior Mani Brueckner sensed that this season had the potential to be special for the Golden Knights.
With 11 seniors back from last year, Gannon fielded a mature team with a wealth of experience.
“We lost one player from last year, Justine Rodrigues and she was a great player,” Brueckner said. “We miss her a lot at midfield. We were able to bring back such a strong team. We had the team chemistry.
“Some of the girls have been starting since their freshmen year. We are anxious and excited for each game, but we don’t have the nerves because we have so many games under our belt.”
It has quite simply been a dream season for Gannon and Brueckner. The Golden Knights have steadily moved up the NSCAA top 25, finally reaching No. 1 a few weeks ago.
“Early in the season we were ranked No. 19 and we moved to No. 4 and we have been No. 1 the past couple of weeks,” Bueckner said. “It is pretty cool when you get that recognition.
“Holding the No. 1 spot for the last couple of weeks means something to us. As much as people say it doesn’t matter, it is just a ranking. It is still really cool to get that recognition.”
The Golden Knights improved to 16-0 overall and 14-0 in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference on Saturday with a 2-0 victory over University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown.
In that game, Brueckner scored her 15th goal of the season. She recently established a school record in points, breaking the mark of 124, established by Amanda Sharbaugh in 2011. Brueckner now has 128 points.
Brueckner, who is majoring in engineering, is also excelling in the classroom. In her three previous seasons, she has earned PSAC scholar-athlete award.
“One of the major reasons I picked Gannon is because it was going to be a good balance between academics and athletics,” Brueckner said. “Looking back now, I couldn’t have made a better choice. I am doing well in school and I am doing pretty well in soccer as well.
“Gannon has been good to me. I am very fortunate to be able to come here and be surrounded with the cast I am on the soccer field. I am very blessed to have this talent around me. I don’t think I would have been as successful anywhere else.”
Brueckner feels that same teamwork in the classroom.
“It is challenging,” Brueckner said. “Engineering is one of the more difficult majors. The hard part is missing class and trying to make up the work I am missing. Fortunately, all my professors at Gannon have been very accommodating. They are flexible. My friends in all my classes have been helpful in getting me notes for classes I miss.”
Gannon concludes the regular season this week with two away games, first playing at California University of Pennsylvania on Tuesday and at East Stroudsburg on Friday.
And then the quarterfinals of the PSAC Tournament starts on Nov. 11. Last year the Golden Knights’ season ended in the quarterfinals.
“A PSAC championship has been one of our goals since the beginning of the season. It is something we want. But we can’t look too far ahead. You can’t look at the championship game and you haven’t finished your quarterfinal game yet. You have to do step one before you do step two.”
Alaska Anchorage volleyball rebounding after brief stumble
Before Alaska Anchorage volleyball team played at Montana State-Billings, coach Chris Green was looking for the Seawolves to rise above the plateau they had hit recently.
After winning its 14 matches, Alaska Anchorage dropped two of three matches from Oct. 8 to Oct. 15.
“Honestly,” Green said, “we are at a plateau right now, trying to figure out how to keep improving.
“Match to match we have players doing a great job, but five or six hitters are not performing well at the same time. We need to get back to being a little more consistent from match to match and player to player.”
The Seawolves may have hit their stride again. Their 3-0 victory at Montana State-Billings was their third straight and in that span, they have dropped just one set. Anchorage Alaska is now 18-2 and ranked No. 13 in the AVCA coaches top 25.
Two of the key players for the Seawolves are senior right side hitter Julia Mackey from Fairbanks, Alaska and senior outside Kantelynn Zanders from Anchorage.
“A few years ago we had some good talent in Alaska,” Green said. “You have waves when you have pretty good talent. We were able to recruit some good players about 3 or 4 years ago. Two of them are still on the roster and are seniors.
“Julia Mackey has been one of our go-to hitters. Her and Katelynn Zanders have done a great job.”
Over the last six years, Anchorage-Alaska has experienced enough success to reach the NCAA Division II regional five of the last six years. The Seawolves, though, want to do more than just make the regional tournament this year.
“It is one of our big goals,” Green said. “In 2009, we made it to the second round, but we have not been successful in the NCAA regional tournament.
“First we want to make it and then one of our goals is to get past the first round and to perform better in postseason tournament.”
Ferris state senior wide receiver enjoying every moment
Every time Ferris State senior wide receiver Jake Lampman practices and plays a game for the Bulldogs this season, it has great meaning to him.
There was a time last year when he thought his playing days were over at Ferris State. But he was granted a medical shirt, which made 2015 possible.
“It puts into perspective how important moments like these are in your life,” Lampman said. “We are going to remember this season for the rest of our life. It is a special season. Going to practice every day, everybody has the mindset that we never know when your last play is going to be.”
Lampman definitely had another memorable moment on Saturday’s in Ferris’ 24-14 victory over Michigan Tech. Lampman caught a 70-yard touchdown pass from senior quarterback Jason Vander Laan that gave Ferris State a 17-7 lead in the second quarter.
“You have to enjoy the moment and that leads to a special season like the one we are on now,” Lampman said.
Ferris State is 7-0 and ranked No. 4 in the AFCA top 25.
“I feel our sense of urgency is a lot more intense than it was at the beginning of the season,” Lampman said. “I feel we have a relentless mentality where every single play, no matter how much of a margin we are winning by or losing by, we are going to play our game.”
Lampman added that the Bulldogs are having fun and enjoying the season while working hard to be as good as they can possibly be.
“When we come to practice, we have music playing,” Lampman said. “Everyone tries to have the best attitude possible. We are upbeat and enjoying our time and we like to celebrate the fact we get to play a game on a great team.
“We call Saturday celebration Saturday and that is when we get to go out after we have been grinding all week and go out and show what we have been working on. We embrace the grind and go at it every single day. When it is over, we know it is over and never coming back.”
The Bulldogs are doing everything possible to make sure their last days on the football field in 2015 is sometime in mid to late December.