PENSACOLA, FL — It was just another day at the office for this surprise Gannon women's volleyball team. After upsetting 2015 national champion and Atlantic Region powerhouse Wheeling Jesuit for the regional title, the Golden Knights upset No. 2 Regis in straight sets in Thursday's quarterfinals.
Gannon, the No. 7 seed, came out and surprised the crowd at UWF Field House, taking the first set 25-20. It appeared Regis regrouped quickly, jumping out to a five-point lead at two different occasions late in the second set. Gannon never went away, however, pulling off a shocking comeback, taking the second set 28-26.
That was all the Golden Knights needed. They rode the momentum and dominated the third set 25-17. Regis made a few runs, but a near-perfect day in service from Gannon squashed any hope for a comeback. The Golden Knights posted eight aces to just one service error.
“We probably couldn’t have had the match go better for us than it did," Gannon head coach Matt Darling said. "We knew that we were in the situation where the middles for Regis had the opportunity to make an imprint on this match that was going to be bad for us. We were willing to take some risks and do some new things and we got a good result.
“We knew that the service game for us was going to be the key.”
Senior Kelsey Ansec was sensational as usual. She led all players with 17 kills, seven coming in that second set comeback. The victory was even sweeter for Ansec and her six fellow seniors. The Golden Knights had been to the quarterfinals in the past. Never before had they advanced to the semifinals.
“It feels amazing," Ansec said. "We have such a big group of seniors, we have seven that have been working four years for this. I just found out it was history in the making. We feel so grateful to represent our university here and play these amazing teams.”
That win against Wheeling Jesuit prepared the Golden Knights for the quarterfinals, and it showed. They played seemingly flawless with an answer or big hit to every Regis run. That's all part of being that 'December team.'
“It always feels good being underestimated," Ansec said. "Being a lower seed and playing someone higher than you motivates you to play your best.
"It gave us more of a drive and a fight. That’s something we’re trying to achieve being that December team and peaking then, and being at our best at the end of the tournament.”
Next up for the Cinderella Golden Knights will be No. 3 seeded Florida Southern. In order for them to taste the championship game, yet another upset will have to be in store. Darling has his team prepared and ready for more.
“I told them 'Look, we’re not going to be tourists. We’re not going to Disney, it’s Pensacola, not Orlando. We’re taking this very seriously.'”