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Juniata women\'s volleyball wins Landmark Conference title

(Posted November 3, 2007)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. - New conference, same old story. Juniata College captured its 27th straight conference championship on Saturday, with a 3-0 win over the University of Scranton to win the inaugural Landmark Conference Women\'s Volleyball Tournament championship. Game scores were 30-11, 30-10, and 30-28. With the championship, the second-ranked Eagles pick up in the new Landmark Conference right where they left off in the old Commonwealth Conference and its forerunner, the Middle Atlantic Conference, where Juniata won 26 consecutive conference championships dating back to 1981. The Scranton Royals made Juniata work for this one, however. The Royals (25-11) erased a 16-7 deficit in game three, and eventually held a slim 22-21 advantage. Control of the game see-sawed, until a kill by freshman Sam Bristol (Lone Tree, Colo./Highlands Ranch) put the Eagles in front 29-27 and playing for match point. With Juniata\'s Jen Laver (North Huntingdon, Pa./Norwin) serving, Scranton staved off the decision with a kill by Valerie Naranjo. However Meaghan Curtin committed a service error on the ensuing Royal service, giving the Eagles the victory in game three and the match. \"I think generally we played really well, and Scranton didn\'t have their best game until game three,\" said Juniata head coach Larry Bock. \"We served and passed the ball extremely well today, and that\'s gratifying because that\'s what we need to be doing heading into the NCAA tournament.\" Games one and two were controlled by Juniata from the outset. In game one, Juniata took an initial 7-4 lead and expanded it all the way to 18-5, including nine straight points off serves by Beth Kozak (Huntingdon, Pa./Huntingdon Area). Erin Albert (Philipsburg, Pa./Philipsburg-Osceola) accounted for three kills and one block in that stretch - part of her game-high 13 kills and two blocks on the night. Juniata rattled off four straight points off the service of Megan Sollenberger (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Cumberland Valley) to end game one, with an attack error by Scranton\'s Brooke Hinkley eventually giving game point to the Eagles. Game two was a duplicate of game one, with a pair of runs off strong Juniata serving proving decisive. The Eagles turned a 10-4 lead into a 16-4 advantage on serves by Megan Sollenberger, who tallied two service aces during that stretch with three other points won on Amber Thomas (Ephrata, Pa./Conestoga Valley) kills. Later in game two, Jessica Ritchey (Greencastle, Pa./Greencastle-Antrim) served the Eagles to five straight points, with one service ace, to stretch the Juniata lead to 26-9. Megan Lamens (Schellsburg, Pa./Berlin Brothersvalley) had a kill and a block during that run, then tallied two more kills on ensuing Scranton and Juniata serves to bring the Eagles to the brink of game point. A Scranton ball-handling error and a kill by Thomas sealed the game two win. \"We\'re now getting back into a groove - that week when Beth (Kozak) was out threw everybody off their game a little bit,\" said Bock. \"Erin Albert had a really good night; I thought Megan Sollenberger\'s serving was very strong, and Beth Kozak had a good match in a lot of different ways. \"Amber Thomas just plays a different game from the people on the other side of the net from her, who aren\'t used to seeing that kind of elevation. There was an advantageous matchup with Amber hitting over Scranton\'s small setter, and Beth was able to take advantage of that in her setting,\" added Bock. Thomas finished with 10 kills, while Megan Sollenberger tallied a game-high 13 digs. Albert finished with four service aces, and Kozak tallied 38 set assists. Juniata had six team blocks on the night. As a team, Juniata had a .434 attack percentage, while holding the Royals to a .117 attack clip. For Scranton, Naranjo tallied a team-high eight kills, while Hinkley and Jacqueline Pisano had five each. Meaghan Curtin had a team-high 12 digs, followed by Jacqueline Pisano with 11 and Abby Barrett with 10. Jenn McKeighan finished with 24 set assists. With no automatic qualifier for the new Landmark Conference, Juniata will gain entry into the NCAA tournament through an at-large berth. The complete NCAA tournament bracket and pairings will be announced on Sunday, Nov. 4, and will be initially posted on the NCAA\'s website, www.ncaasports.com, with information later posted on Juniata\'s website. -30-

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