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Eagles Voleyball Looking For Third Straight Division III Title

(Posted April 4, 2006)

Junior Nate Ocasio has been an offensive force down the stretch for the Eagles as they look to defend their Molten Division III Championship.

Huntingdon, PA - The Juniata College men's volleyball team will be looking to claim its third-consecutive national championship when the Eagles begin competition at the 2006 Molten Division III Men's Invitational Volleyball Championship Friday April 7 at the Canavan Arena on the campus of Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J. Juniata enters the four-team event as the top-ranked team in Division III and as the number-one seed. The Eagles will take on fourth-seed and host Stevens Tech in the second semifinal on Friday at 7:00 p.m., while second-seed University of California at Santa Cruz will battle Rivier College (N.H.) in the other semifinal. The consolation match will be played at 3:00 p.m. on Saturday, with the championship match to follow. Tickets for each match are $5 for adults and $3 for students. Two-day ticket packages are available for $5 for students and $8 for adults.

Juniata (10-11) earned a berth in the Molten Tournament by claiming the EIVA Division III Championship with a thrilling 3-2 victory over New York University this past Saturday. Juniata has held the top spot in the CSTV/AVCA Division III Top-15 Coaches Poll all but one week the 2006 season. The tournament features three other teams ranked in the top-8 of the Division III poll, including two top-five teams. UC Santa Cruz (6-9) is ranked fifth in the poll and was chosen to the field as the at-large representative from the Midwest/West regions. Host Stevens Tech (26-11) holds down the seventh spot in the poll and secured the automatic bid granted to the host institution. Rivier (31-3) is the eighth-ranked team in Division III and earned its bid after winning the North East Collegiate Volleyball Association Tournament title this past weekend.

Juniata's first-round match-up will mark the second time the Eagles have faced Stevens in the Molten Tournament. Juniata and Stevens met in the opening round of the 2003 Molten Invitational. Juniata has earned three Molten Championships in the nine-year history of the event having claimed the title in 1998, 2004 and 2005. Stevens is making its fourth Molten Tournament appearance while UC Santa Cruz is making its second appearance in the tournament. Rivier will be in the Molten for the first time. None of the three participating schools other than Juniata have claimed Molten Championships. Juniata enters the tournament undefeated against Division III competition on the season, while the Eagles are also riding a 23-match winning streak against Division III opponents, which dates back to 2004. The Eagles are 1-0 against this year's Molten Tournament field having claimed a 3-1 victory over Stevens Tech in Huntingdon earlier this season. The Eagles have never faced either Rivier or UC Santa Cruz in the history of the volleyball program.

The Eagles have featured a balanced attack offensively all season. Junior right side hitter Nate Ocasio (Northeastern/Manchester) was named the Most Valuable Player of the EIVA Division III Tournament and he leads the team in kills per game. Sophomore Matt Fritz (John Carroll/Churchville, Md.) leads the team with 230 kills and is second on the team in digs and aces. Junior middle Jeremy Barndt (Souderton/Souderton) has a team-best 92 blocks and a .373 hitting percentage while ranking second in kills and serve aces. Glenn DeHaven (Walt Whitman/South Huntington, N.Y.) is fourth on the team in kills, third in digs, and fourth in serve aces. Freshman setter Matt Werle (Meadville/Meadville) has passed out 837 assists in leading the Juniata offense while leading the team in aces (29) and ranking third in blocks (55). Juniors Steve Yeager (Hempfield/East Petersburg) and Casey Dale (Cochranton/Cochranton) have split time at the libero position and have produced 134 and 66 digs respectively.

Now in its 10th year the Molten Division III Men's Invitational Volleyball Championship was formed due to a need for a culminating event for Division III men's volleyball. While the NCAA sponsors a national championship for men's volleyball, programs from all three divisions compete for just four berths in the yearly tournament. In the 34-year history of the men's tournament, no Division III program has been selected to participate in the NCAA National Collegiate Men's Volleyball Championship.

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Contact John Wall at wallj@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3132 for more information.