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Juniata\'s championship chase ends in semifinal loss to UW-Whitewater

(Posted November 16, 2007)

(From AVCA Press Release) BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (Nov. 16, 2007) - In the 2005 NCAA Division III national championship match, the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater, under the direction of their first-year head coach Stacy Boudreau, knocked off a Juniata College team looking for their second consecutive national title. In 2007, the same two teams tangled in the national semifinals, with Juniata once again seeking the championship crown for a second straight season. And for the second time in three seasons, it would be Boudreau\'s Warhawks ending Juniata\'s bid for a repeat, as Whitewater (39-4) downed the Eagles (37-5) in three games 30-28, 30-27, 30-25. \"Juniata is a great team, and played a great game,\" said Boudreau. \"We knew it was going to be a tough game. The girls stepped up and played with confidence. Our roster is full of seniors, and they really wanted this match.\" Whitewater, who is now 14-1 in the NCAA Tournament since Boudreau took the reigns in 2005, played a great defensive game, out-blocking the Eagles 10-3. \"They were very good and we weren\'t,\" said Larry Bock, Juniata head coach, who has more career wins than any other coach at any level of collegiate women\'s volleyball. \"I thought Whitewater had a great game plan. They served us short, found soft spots in the middle of the court.\" \"We knew defense was going to be a big key,\" noted Boudreau. \"Our setters did a great job of setting us up.\" Whitewater, serving first, jumped out to an early lead at 6-3. Juniata took their first lead of the match at 8-7 on back-to-back Amber Thomas kills. Whitewater quickly took the lead back, and extended it to the largest game one margin of four, at 16-12. Juniata would go on a run of their own, as an Erin Albert service ace would re-tie the game at 17-17. As a very evenly played first game continued, neither team would lead by more than two. After Juniata held a steady two-point lead, Whitewater tied the match at 28-28, then took a 29-28, game point lead on a Carley Polk kill. A net violation was called on Juniata as a Whitewater attack sailed out-of-bounds, giving the Warhawks a hard-fought, 30-28, game one win. A similar scene started in game two as the teams traded the first 14 points, until Whitewater took a two-point lead at 9-7. A block by the Warhawks\' Polk and Kelly Sorenson extended their advantage to 12-8, and led to a Juniata timeout. With the score 15-10 in favor or Whitewater, Juniata would storm back with their attacking game. Taking eight of the next 11 points, highlighted by two Thomas kills, a Megan Sollenberger service ace would tie the game at 18-18. Neither team letting the other take control of the game, it was tied 26-26, when Whitewater used an Eagle net violation and a block by Sarah Theis and Kate LaZotte to take a two-point advantage at 28-26. An Alyse Karls ace gave the Warhawks game point at 29-26, but her next service would fly into the net and cut the lead to two at 29-27. But with it still game point, LaZotte found a hole in-between three diving Eagle defenders to give the Warhawks a 30-27 game two win, and a two games to none lead. In a two-game hole, the Eagles stormed out to an early 6-2 lead in game three. But an aggressive Whitewater team would quickly tie the game at 6-6 on another Karls ace. In another back-and-forth game, the teams would continue to trade points until Whitewater would break an 11-11 tie and collect eight of the next 12 points to take a 19-15 lead. When a Theis kill hit an Eagle player in the head, almost knocking her off her feet, Whitewater had a 21-16 lead, and was brimming with the confidence to close out the match. After Thomas countered with back-to-back kills for Juniata, Whitewater responded with consecutive points of their own, going up 23-18. Juniata would cut the Warhawk lead to three at 27-24, but out of a Whitewater timeout a Sorenson kill followed by a net error on the Eagles would make it game point at 29-24. After a Beth Kozak kill cut the lead to 29-25, Amber Schultz\'s 13th kill would send the Warhawks to the championship match with an upset over Juniata. Schultz led the Warhawk attack with 13 kills, with Polk and Theis adding 12 apiece. LaZotte paced the Whitewater offense with 44 assists, setting the Warhawks to a .290 attack percentage. The Whitewater team, who had lost to Juniata twice during the regular season, appeared confident and relaxed the entire match. \"We play better when we\'re loose and having fun,\" said Polk. AVCA Player of the Year Amber Thomas had 22 kills and only one error for the Eagles. She hit .412 for the match, but Juniata only hit .191 as a team. \"Amber was great,\" said Bock. \"She played like the player of the year again tonight.\" Wisconsin-Whitewater will look for their second national championship in three years, as they will face either undefeated Wittenberg University or the storied Washington University in St. Louis program in tomorrow night\'s championship match. First serve for the championship match of the NCAA Division III Volleyball Championship is set for 7:00 p.m. CT Saturday night. -30-

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