Seton Hill volleyball places second at WVIAC tournament
As Wheeling Jesuit's players celebrated the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference women's volleyball tournament championship across the net on Saturday, Christina Donahoe looked up into the stands.
The bleachers at the Eddie King Gymnasium on the campus of the University of Charleston had a large contingent of Seton Hill fans — as the Griffins regularly had for matches all season long.
The only senior on a Seton Hill team that had won 15 of 16 heading into that 3-0 loss to Wheeling Jesuit that ended its season, Donahoe took a moment to reflect.
“I looked up into the stands and I saw my parents, and it was just tough to see them and know they won't be able to come to my games anymore and realizing that I won't be playing anymore,” the Greensburg Central Catholic alumnus said. “The fact I was the only senior, I really had no one to share it with, which was kind of tough.
“But losing in finals, it doesn't really get much better than that.”
Seton Hill (22-12) completed a season in which it made the finals of the WVIAC for the first time, held its first NCAA Division II regional ranking and led the nation in blocks per set.
The best part might just be that the Griffins had a heavy freshman and sophomore influence. That suggests they will be even better in the coming years as the program moves into the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference.
“As well as we did last year, we're looking forward to next year,” longtime coach Rick Hall said. “We're going to still be a little young, but we'll be seasoned so we're pretty excited.”
Among the standouts who were in their first or second season of college volleyball include middle blocker Shelby Kyllo, middle hitter Corrine Gahagen and outside hitter Abigail Malsch.
Gahagen, a sophomore, was selected as first-team All-WVIAC. Kyllo was named WVIAC freshman of the year, and Kyllo and Malsch were on the conference's all-freshman team. Kyllo led the WVIAC with 1.57 blocks per set, which ranked second in NCAA Division II.
Gahagen, Kyllo and freshman libero Lauren Teed were on the WVIAC all-tournament team.
Sophomore front row player Larissa Santangelo, sophomore setter Courtney Field, junior defensive specialist Katie Bloomgren and junior setter Kelsey Profio are other starters who will return next year. Junior middle/outside Chelsey Regovich and sophomore Alexis Cerminara “played like seniors,” Hall said, and figure to improve even more.
It was Donahoe, however, who set the example for everyone.
“Quite simply, she may be one of the best quote-unquote athletes I've ever coached,” Hall said. “She's very physically gifted and a very strong girl, but her leadership this year helped us out tremendously.”
The successful senior season was all the more gratifying for Donahoe because she was healthy for the first time in her college career. A lifelong sufferer of migraines, she was diagnosed with vertigo after last season. The illness severely limited her during her junior season.
“Fortunately for us this year she didn't have any problems, and she was the girl all the younger girls respected,” Hall said. “She didn't have some of the stats, but that's because she did all the dirty work that every team needs done to be successful. She's that kind of player and that kind of person.”
Chris Adamski is a freelance writer.