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Volleyball Halts Losing Skid

(Posted April 10, 2007)

Nate Ocasio led all players with 20 kills and added eight digs as Juniata downed Saint Francis in its regular-season finale.

HUNTINGDON, Pa. - The Juniata College men\'s volleyball team snapped a two-match losing streak and regained some momentum heading into the postseason as the Eagles claimed a 3-1 victory over EIVA Tait Division rival Saint Francis in their regular-season finale Tuesday night in Huntingdon. Juniata (14-8, 6-6 EIVA Tait) had three players reach double figures in kills and hit .346 as a team as the Eagles also snapped a four-match losing streak against its local rival. Nate Ocasio (Northeastern/Manchester) led all players with 20 kills in the victory. The win keeps Juniata in contention for the fourth seed in the EIVA Tournament, which would give the Eagles a bye into the quarterfinals. Juniata earned the victory by scores of 26-30, 30-21, 30-25, 30-23. Saint Francis (17-10, 7-5 EIVA Tait), which could have locked up the second seed for the tournament with a victory, got 19 kills from Marc Honore but was limited to a .238 hitting mark as a team. The Red Flash seized control midway through game one, with a double block from Pete Fryer and Jordan Varee giving them a 24-20 lead. The Eagles got no closer than three the rest of the way as Honore sealed the game with a kill. Juniata jumped in front early in game two and never looked back. Jeremy Barndt (Souderton/Souderton) teamed up with Matt Werle (Meadville/Meadville) and Matt Fritz (John Carroll/Churchville, Md.) for two early blocks that put Juniata in front 8-5. An Ocasio kill later in the match extended the lead to seven and then Ocasio closed out the game with another kill. The Eagles raced out even faster in game three, surging to an 11-4 lead after an Ocasio and Barndt double block. This time, Saint Francis eventually made a run, as a triple block from the Red Flash and a kill from Mark Steele helped them pull within three at 23-20. Juniata answered with a double block from Glenn DeHaven (Walt Whitman/South Huntington, N.Y.) and Chris Gass (Saint Marks/Wilmington, Del.) out of a timeout and the Red Flash got no closer than three the rest of the way. Juniata took control midway through game four as a Gass ace, a triple block, and kills from Barndt and Fritz helped Juniata open up a 22-15 advantage. The Red Flash inched back within four after a Honore kill and a Juniata attack error, but Barndt closed the match with his 17th kill. After the Red Flash hit .500 in game one, Juniata\'s defense limited the visitors to attack percentages of .091, .229 and .200 over the final three games. Ocasio hit .395 while recording his 20 kills, and he also tied for the team-high with eight digs. Barndt had just one attack error as he finished with a .667 hitting percentage and 17 kills. He also led the team with seven blocks. Fritz added 11 finishes on the night. Werle passed out 57 assists while adding eight digs and three blocks. In his first start of the year Gass had four aces, eight kills and four blocks. Honore produced 19 kills with a .571 hitting percentage and also led the team with seven blocks. Alex Fortney added nine finished for the Red Flash while Travis Fox and Nick Rivett each had eight. Rivett and Zach Nanni each brought up 11 digs in the contest. Shane Conley passed out 26 assists for the visitors. Juniata returns to action Friday when the Eagles try to make history and earn their fourth-consecutive Molten Division III Men\'s Invitational Volleyball Championship. The second-seeded Eagles will face third-seed Springfield College in the second semifinal at 8 p.m. Friday evening. ###

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