Edinboro won the first three points of the match. Then they decided to win the first three sets.
It all added up to a pivotal PSAC west victory.
Boro (18-2, 7-1 PSAC) defeated Gannon in straight sets, 25-18, 25- 20, 25-23, Friday night at McComb Fieldhouse in a battle of the top two teams in the PSAC western division standings.
The Fighting Scots tallied the first three points of the match as they sailed to a 25-18 first set victory, a set in which the Scots never trailed.
“It was a huge confidence booster,” head coach Missy Soboleski said about the first set victory. “Actually I think the first five to 10 points of the match are the biggest things for me to see where we are going to settle in. We settled in those first 10 points and just did a good job of maintaining our composure and actually defending the way we wanted to defend.”
Boro’s strong defense continued into the second match as Gannon didn’t enjoy their first lead of the match until it was 2-1 early in the set. The Golden Knights never had much breathing room as their largest lead at any point in the set was three, when they held a 10-7 advantage.
The Scots fought back midway through the set when they claimed a 16-15 lead off a service error by Gannon and never looked back, winning the set 25-20, with an ace by senior Marah Maycock serving as the set winning point.
The Golden Knights struggled all night long to find a rhythm offensively, according to Soboleski.
“They were trying to get some middle and right side attack going and you could see that they were trying to do it,” she said after the match. “It was easy to key on. We knew where it was going just based on reading their setters. We did a decent job of keeping them out of system.”
Boro has a new piece to their system with the insertion of freshman Jacqui Mullins into the starting lineup in the place of injured Jen Gruber, who Soboleski confirmed after the match is done for the season.
“She is [the long term answer],” Soboleski said of Mullins.
“The funny thing is she hadn’t practiced the last two days [leading up to the match] because she was sick, so we weren’t even sure if she was going to be able to play tonight. We just left her in to see how she was going to handle it and she did a great job holding her own.”
In addition to Gruber’s extended absence, Soboleski noted that sophomore Challen Litwiler and junior Latoya Hutchinson are both playing with minor injuries, which have affected game plans.
Neither seem to have been affected, though, either in the third set or the match, with Edinboro and Gannon battling back-and-forth in the final set with the lead changing hands five times. The Scots seemed to have the win in sights, with a 19-15 advantage in the set, however, the Golden Knights went on a 4-1 run to tighten the gap. Boro managed to stave off the local rival with junior transfer Vic Severo getting the match winning kill.
Despite the injuries and other obstacles thrown at the Scots so far this season, they claimed the top spot in the western division with the sweep.
“Our team really just work hard regardless of being injured or sick,” Severo said.
“We all just gel really well together no matter who is in. We all want to play together, we all get along and I think that helps.”
Severo, a Meadville native, finished the match with 13 kills. Litwiler, who leads the PSAC in kills this season, contributed 11 and one ace.
Despite Edinboro sitting atop the PSAC west, Soboleski doesn’t want her players to feel any team is inferior.
“I don’t want them to look at the record and think that we already have beaten tougher teams,” she said. “Every team in the PSAC is tough and every night we have to battle.”
The fight continues on the eastern side of the state on Friday and Saturday at the final PSAC east-west crossover of the 2015 regular season. Boro faces Cheyney and Kutztown on Friday at Kutztown’s Keystone Arena before playing West Chester and East Stroudsburg on Saturday at ESU’s Koehler Fieldhouse.
Tyler Trumbauer is the Sports Editor for The Spectator. He can be reached at email@example.com.