By Jed Johnson
The Crimson Hawks made a statement this season, as the 2016 team made its first playoff appearance since 2004.
Crimson Hawks head coach Scott Pennewill has improved the program’s win record in each of the past two seasons since he started at IUP.
After previous head coach Aline Scott finished her final season with the program in 2014 with a 9-20 overall and a 5-17 conference record, Pennewill improved the team by eight wins in his first year, sporting a 17-15 overall record and 9-13 in the conference. This season, Pennewill finished the season with a 20-11 overall record and a 10-8 conference record to boast.
Pennewill said that the team’s goal was to have a 20-win season.
“I would say that we met expectations and are still a little bit away from being where we want to be in the conference,” Pennewill said. “Overall, we are all very pleased with our progress and know what we have to do.”
The Crimson Hawks had not had a winning conference record since 2010, when Zach Shaver coached the program. IUP finished the season second in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference in team blocks, with an average of 2.03 blocks per set. Only Gannon University, the PSAC Women’s Volleyball Tournament winners, finished the season with a higher block-per-set average.
“There was an emphasis on being a better team on defense this season, and match the growth we had last season on offense,” Pennewill said. “So being able to have a stat in team blocks is very rewarding because it shows that the focus as a team paid off, and we were able to improve at the net.”
Three seniors will be graduating before next season starts: Kaitlyn Palmer (biology and pre-med), Lily McWilliams (nutrition and dietetics) and Lindsay Moeller (early childhood and special education). Coach Pennewill said that the team was blessed to have its three seniors enjoy terrific years, and that they will be missed terribly.
“They represent everything we are teaching within our program and the culture of our volleyball team,” Pennewill said. “I believe you will see players like Katie Miller, Sami Brown and Bre Damiani begin to fill the positions we are losing to graduation. They are prepared and will do an equally successful job of helping our team mature and grow.”
As Pennewill enters his third year with the Crimson Hawks program, the team will likely make the tournament field if they win as many games as they did in 2016.
“We will continue to focus on the process of creating a cohesive unit with high standards and a desire to excel,” Pennewill said.
“Our measure of success revolves around how we play the game with the knowledge that, if we do that, the outcomes will take care of themselves.”
Pennewill said that the team will need to play more efficiently and consistently next season.
“Our schedule next fall will include nationally ranked opponents as well as regionally ranked top 25, so we have to bring our ‘A’ game every outing no matter the competition,” Pennewill said.