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Volleyball Season Ends With Tough Loss In Quarterfinals

(Posted April 22, 2007)

Nate Ocasio knocked out a match-high 21 kills and also had eight digs and five blocks for Juniata in its EIVA quarterfinal match against Princeton.

PRINCETON, N.J. - The most decorated class in the history of the Juniata College men\'s volleyball program played its final match Sunday afternoon as fifth-seeded Juniata suffered a 3-2 set-back to fourth seed Princeton University in the quarterfinals of the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) Tournament Sunday afternoon in New Jersey. Princeton (12-9) will move on to face top seed Penn State in the semifinals Thursday at Penn State. The loss marks the third time in four years that Juniata (17-9) has been knocked out of the EIVA Tournament in a five-game loss. The Eagles were beaten in five games in the EIVA semifinals in both 2004 and 2005. Nate Ocasio (Northeastern/Manchester), one of seven seniors on the Juniata team, led all players with 21 kills in the match but the Eagles were limited to just a .148 hitting percentage as Princeton earned the victory by scores of 30-22, 34-36, 30-24, 25-30 and 15-8. Peter Eichler led four Tigers in double figures in kills with 18 finishes, but Princeton did most of its damage defensively as the home team compiled a remarkable 23 blocks in the match. The Tigers will be making their first EIVA semifinal appearance since the 2003 season. In a match that was close throughout, Juniata was unable to handle a late Princeton surge in the decisive fifth game. Trailing 5-1 after a kill from Mike Vincent, Juniata rallied to tie the score at five after a Matt Fritz (John Carroll/Churchville, Md.) kill and an ace from Jeremy Barndt (Souderton/Souderton). Princeton answered with three straight points, before an Ocasio kill stopped the run. Juniata inched back within two points at 9-7 after a double block from Matt Werle (Meadville/Meadville) and Chriss Gass (Saint Marks/Wilmington, Del.) but Princeton then rolled off three-straight points to take control. A kill from Evan Pasion closed out the final game. Both teams finished with 61 kills in the match, but Juniata had 13 more attack errors than their counterparts. The Eagles out-dug Princeton in the contest, by a 41-35 margin, but were out-blocked 23-12.5. Ocasio had 21 kills with a .244 hitting percentage, but no other Juniata player hit better than .143. Fritz finished with 10 kills and Glenn DeHaven (Walt Whitman/South Huntington, N.Y.) also had 10 finishes. Barndt added nine kills and also paced the team with seven blocks and three aces. Werle dished out 50 assists for the Eagles and also notched seven blocks. Steve Yeager (Hempfield/East Petersburg) led the team with 10 digs. Eichler knocked out 18 kills to go along with eight digs, five blocks and three aces for the Tigers. Phillip Rosenberg produced 13 finishes on the day while Vincent and Pasio added 12 and 10 respectively. Brandon Denham dished out 53 assists as Princeton hit .248 as a team in the contest. Pasio led all players with 11 blocks, and Rosenberg was tops in the match with 14 digs. Princeton seized control of the match late in game one. Leading 19-17 the Tigers closed the game by scoring 11 of the final 15 points, and capped the game with an Eichler kill. Juniata seemed to get its energy back with a stirring comeback in game two. The Eagles trailed 28-24 but an ace from Werle sparked a run that eventually tied the score at 29. The Eagles fought off six game points before another Werle ace and a kill from Evan Halteman (Christopher Dock/Perkiomen) gave Juniata the win. Princeton reclaimed the momentum in game three. Much like game one, the Tigers closed the game strong to pull out the win. With Princeton leading 23-21 the Tigers got consecutive double blocks followed by a Rosenberg solo block to take a 27-22 edge. Vincent then put Juniata on the brink with a kill. The Eagles bounced back again in game four as a Gass service run that featured a pair of double blocks gave Juniata a 21-17 edge. Princeton rallied to cut the deficit to 22-21, but Fritz provided a kill and then Barndt served three-straight points to help Juniata force the decisive game five. Juniata will graduate seven seniors from a team that became the first Division III program to win four-consecutive Molten Division III Men\'s Invitational Volleyball Championships. ###

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