By Jed Johnson
The Crimson Hawks volleyball team continued to pad their record, winning three of four matches in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference/Mountain East Conference (PSAC/MEC) Crossover this past weekend.
IUP improved to 8-1 on the 2016 season, with their only loss coming Friday evening to Fairmont State University.
IUP head coach Scott Penewill was impressed with the team’s performance over the course of the
weekend, particularly its ability to play at a high level.
“The weekend in the gym was extremely hot, and you could tell it was taking a toll on everybody in the tournament,” Pennewill said.
“[The Crimson Hawks] played through it – didn’t let it affect them, and I think that’s a credit to how they train, and the character they bring to the game.”
The Crimson Hawks started the weekend with a sweep of Urbana University, winning each set by at least six points.
Natalie Cignetti (junior, natural sciences) led the Crimson Hawks against Urbana with 13 kills, and Gabby Egler (junior, psychology) tallied four blocks.
In the team’s second match of the evening, IUP had been down two sets to one to Fairmont State before winning the fourth set, 30-28.
However, the Crimson Hawks were unable to complete the rally against the Fighting Falcons, losing the game-deciding fifth set, 15-12.
Lily McWilliams (senior, nutrition/dietetics) led IUP with 18 kills. Elora Pittman (sophomore, psychology), Cignetti and McWilliams each recorded three blocks in the contest.
As a team, the Crimson Hawks had a hitting percentage of .079 against the Fighting Falcons.
The team rebounded from the loss on Saturday by defeating West Virginia State University, 3-1, in their first match of the day, despite losing the first set to the Yellow Jackets.
McWilliams, Cignetti and Egler each recorded double-digit kills in the contest, recording 11, 10 and 10 kills, respectively.
Egler and Alexis Anderson (junior, marketing) led the Crimson Hawks in blocks with three apiece.
Later on Saturday, the Crimson Hawks defeated Concord University, 3-1, despite each of the four sets being decided by five or fewer points.
Cignetti recorded a season-high 19 kills in the match against the Mountain Lions, bringing her double-digit kill streak to 11 games, dating back to Nov. 13 of last season.
Pennewill had some positive remarks to make about her development since he took over as head coach of the team in 2015.
“[Cignetti’s] developing – [she’s] improved so much in a year, for a player that already was pretty good to begin with,” Pennewill said.
“That’s a credit to her and the goals that she has set for herself.”
Pennewill said that the team emphasizes the process, and Cignetti embraces it.
Egler and Pittman also eclipsed double-digit kills against Concord, with 16 and 12 kills each.
IUP leads the PSAC with 2.29 blocks per set, despite being ranked seventh in that category a year ago.
Pennewill said that it is influenced by how the skill is being taught.
“Volleyball – and the success at this game – is about vision,” Pennewill said. “Blocking is very much about getting to the point of attack before the ball is attacked. The only way you can do that is if you have a nice, clear vision of what’s about to happen.”
The Crimson Hawks will play Tuesday night 7 p.m. against Shepherd University in Shepherdstown, W.Va., before a seven-day rest leading up to a three-game homestand.