The ‘Lopes came out strong in the first set, defeating NJIT 25-19 and hitting .355 as a team. GCU led the entire way with the Highlanders unable to even tie the score. Freshman Ben Ponnet (Merchtem, Belgium, OLVC) and Junior Taylor Galliano (Norco, CA , Foothill , Irvine Valley College) came out with four kills each to lead the offense. Galliano also contributed four block assists.
The Highlanders came back in the second set to beat the ‘Lopes 25-17. The third set proved to be a challenge as there were 10 tie scores and six lead changes before GCU came out with a 25-22 win. This time Ben Hunt (Huntington Beach, CA , Servite) and Galliano racked up four kills each and only one error apiece.
The third set was dominated by GCU again with NJIT unable to even catch the ‘Lopes and tie the score. The final set score was 25-18 giving Grand Canyon its first ever win against a division I opponent. Ponnet had eight kills, two service aces, and one solo block in the fourth set alone.
“Ben Ponnet and Taylor Galliano really carried us. Everyone did a nice job rising to the occasion and they kept producing the entire match,” said head coach Jeremy Price.
Junior middle Galliano had 11 kills and six block assists for the night. Hunt led the defense with 14 digs and freshman setter Keith Smith (Whittier, CA, California High School) had 35 assists.
Ponnet ended the night with 18 kills, three service aces, and four total blocks. He is one kill away from 200 this season placing him fifth on the all-time records list for kills in a single season and his 22 service aces place him third for service aces in a single season.
The ‘Lopes are back in action on Monday night, Feb. 28, in Hoboken, NJ taking on Stevens Tech at 7:00 pm EST.