Golden Eagles Fall in Five-Set Thriller Against Gannon in PSAC Championship Match

| November 20, 2023

SHIPPENSBURG, Pa. — The Golden Eagle volleyball team authored a near-miraculous comeback in the fourth set to force a decisive frame, but Clarion was unable to overcome a persistent effort by Gannon in falling 3-1 (21-25, 25-17, 19-25, 26-24, 10-15) in the 2023 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) championship match.

The Golden Eagles, who were ranked second in the most recent NCAA Atlantic Region poll, will now await the results of Monday night’s Division II Tournament selection show.

Cassidy Snider and Charlie Allison powered the Golden Eagle offense, recording 21 and 17 kills respectively in the effort to dethrone the region’s top-ranked team and the reigning conference champions.

Allison was at her very best in the fourth set, when she rattled off points on five consecutive match points to keep the Golden Eagles alive in the match. Snider also recorded a team-high 22 digs for a double-double, while Allison added eight total blocks.

The Golden Eagles opened a modest lead early in the first set, with Snider serving up an ace against Journey Blevins to put her team ahead by a 7-4 score. Julia Piccolino kept it a three-point set with a kill to make it 9-6, and the Golden Eagles were the first to reach 10 points after a service error by Gannon’s Lara Toruner.

London Fuller recorded kills on back-to-back points to make it 12-7, but the Golden Knights rallied and tied the score at 13 on a service ace by Madde Blake.

Gannon eventually built a 19-16 lead on the back of a 6-2 run, but an Abigail Selfridge ace pulled the Golden Eagles to within one point, and an error by Marta Roicka tied things up at 19.

Gannon rallied for six of the next eight points, taking the first set 25-21.

Gannon leapt out to a 7-3 lead in the second set, punctuating the rally with two kills and an ace by Journey Blevins in the span of three points. The Golden Eagles rallied, getting to within 10-8 after a block from Fuller and Charlie Allison, and Snider tied the set at 10 with a kill that forced a Gannon timeout.

Snider added two more on back-to-back points to make it 13-11, and the duo of Snider and Kearney combined to block Hailey Koch to up the lead to 16-14.

Allison dropped in a tip kill to give the Golden Eagles a 20-16 advantage, and then Savannah Taosoga chipped in on two straight points with a kill and a block.

Abigail Selfridge very nearly did the rest, notching aces on two consecutive points to force set point at 24-17. Allison did wrap the set two points later, tipping the ball for a kill that tied the set at 1-1.

The Golden Knights kicked off the third set with another big run, this time going up 9-3 early in the proceedings. Snider cut it to 9-4 with a kill, Kearney and Taosoga combined to block Blevins, and Piccolino hit a kill down line over the course of three points to bisect the lead, making it 9-6.

Gannon recovered with four straight points, and eventually took a 15-8 lead midway through the set.

Clarion chipped away, cutting it to 17-13 after a kill by Allison, and Snider pulled her team to within two points with a kill at 19-17. The relief was short-lived, though, as the Golden Knights scored five straight to force set point at 24-17, and eventually took the set three points later.

Similar to the prior three sets, Gannon opened the fourth set on an extended run, going up 10-3 after an ace by Blevins that forced Clarion into their second timeout of the set.

There would be no significant tightening of the score until late in this one, though, as the Golden Knights built leads of 15-8 and 20-14.

Allison notched points on five consecutive points–including three kills and two blocks—near the end of the set to fend off match point and keep her team’s hopes alive, turning a 24-17 deficit into just a 24-22 margin.

Things got even more interesting on the next point, when Blevins attacked into the net, and Snider tapped down an over ball on the next point to tie the set.

Piccolino served up an ace to force a Golden Eagle set point at 25-24, and Snider delivered on the next point to complete miraculous comeback and set it to a fifth set.

The teams split the first four points of the fifth set, but the Golden Knights scored three straight to take a 5-2 lead. That advantage stretched into the court flip as Gannon went up 8-3 on a Clarion blocking error, but the Golden Eagles responded with five of the next six points to make it 9-8.

The Golden Knights got a key block and a kill from Ali Sorenson on consecutive points to make it 11-8, and Gannon eventually ran it up to 13-9 after a block from Lauren Atwell.

Sydney Wake put away a ball on the right side on match point, giving Gannon the win and their second straight championship.

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Jacob Deemer is a reporter for EYT Media Group, who is based out of Venango County. He started his career as a sports writer for a local newspaper before contributing to as a beat writer for the Pittsburgh Penguins. He has spent over 6 years covering sports, crime, and local news in Venango, Clarion, and Jefferson Counties.
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