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Juniata volleyball survives regional semifinal scare from Christopher Newport

(Posted November 9, 2007)

HAVERFORD, Pa. - The Juniata College women's volleyball squad posted a come-from-behind win in game five to escape its NCAA Women's Volleyball Championship regional semifinal match against Christopher Newport University (Va.) with a 3-2 victory, at the Haverford College regional in Haverford, Pa. Game scores were 30-24, 30-23, 26-30, 21-30, and 15-9. The match marked the first time Juniata had ever been taken into a fifth game prior to the national quarterfinal round of the Division III tournament, and the first time the Eagles had gone past three games in a regional since 2003, when the Eagles took four games to defeat Eastern University in a regional final. Juniata (35-4) will advance to the Saturday's regional final against the winner of Friday night's Haverford College-Elizabethtown College semifinal matchup. Trailing 3-1 early in game five, the Eagles rallied to take a 4-3 lead on a kill by Megan Lamens (Schellsburg, Pa./Berlin Brothersvalley). After trading side out points, Juniata widened its lead on five straight points off serves by Megan Sollenberger (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Cumberland Valley). Sollenberger had two service aces during that run, which was also fueled by a pair of kills by Paige Johnston (Lancaster, Pa./Hempfield), and left the Eagles with a 9-5 advantage. Juniata eventually ended the Captains' upset bid on a pair of kills by Amber Thomas (Ephrata, Pa./Conestoga Valley), bookended around a side out kill by CNU's Liz Bush. The game five victory ended a stunning two-game rally by unranked Christopher Newport (33-7, 18-0 USA South), who entered Friday afternoon's regional semifinal with a 12-game winning streak. Juniata trailed early in game one, before the Eagles finally took an 8-6 lead following a four-point run on serves by Beth Kozak (Huntingdon, Pa./Huntingdon Area), finished by a pair of kills by Erin Albert (Philipsburg, Pa./Philipsburg-Osceola) and one from Thomas. Christopher Newport battled their way back into a 19-16 lead after four straight kills by the Captains' Christie Kirby, but Juniata outscored CNU 14-6 over the remainder of the game to escape with the win. Jessica Ritchey (Greencastle, Pa./Greencastle-Antrim) locked up the win with a service ace, ending a run of four straight Eagle points off kills from Brittany Carr (Titusville, Pa./Titusville), Lamens, and Johnston. The Eagles were forced to rally for a victory in game two as well, and had to again fight back a late surge by Christopher Newport. Leading 21-20, Juniata stretched its advantage to 24-20 after kills by Albert and Lamens, and an attack error by CNU's Sarah Brown. Following a pair of points for the Captains and side out for Juniata, the Eagles widened the lead to 28-22 on a pair of Christopher Newport attack errors and a kill by Lamens. With Molly Sollenberger (Mechanicsville, Pa./Cumberland Valley) serving, the Captains ended the game with an attack error by Meghan Puckli to hand Juniata the 30-23 win. In game three, the Captains again took an early lead, but this time held onto it for the wire-to-wire win. Juniata pulled as close as 22-24, before the Captains rattled off three straight points, two of which were off kills by Meghan Puckli. The Eagles earned a side out point on a ball-handling error by Brittany Collins, before CNU gained game point on another Puckli kill and an attack error by Thomas. A kill by Liz Bush off a Megan Sollenberger service allowed the Captains to notch the game three win. Christopher Newport posted a wire-to-wire win in game four as well. After Juniata pulled to within seven points, 19-12, the Captains won the next six points on three kills by CNU's Bush and three attack errors by Juniata. Allison Wolfe won Christopher Newport's last two points to finish off the win in game four. Four Eagles finished in double-figures for kills, led by Thomas' 19 terminations. Johnston finished with 16, followed by Albert (13 kills) and Carr (11 kills). Megan Sollenberger had a game-high 34 digs, her second-highest single game total this season, while Thomas logged 12 digs. Kozak had 10 digs to go with her 59 set assists. Juniata had 10 team blocks in the five-game match, led by Albert's six total blocks. The Eagles finished with a .227 attack percentage for the match, which was weighed down by a .134 attack rate in the two games won by Christopher Newport. The Captains were paced by Wolfe's 19 kills, followed by 14 for Puckli. Brittany Collins tallied 55 assists, while Christie Kirby logged 24 digs. Juniata held Christopher Newport to a .187 attack percentage for the entire match, including a .135 attack clip in the three games the Eagles won. CNU managed just four kills and a .048 attack percentage in the decisive fifth game, in which Juniata had a pair of blocks and two service aces. -30-

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