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Juniata College 2008 Men's Volleyball Outlook

(Posted January 9, 2008)

Coming off its fourth-straight Molten Division III National Championship, the goal of a repeat performance may be the last thing the 2008 Juniata College men's volleyball team is interested in pursuing.

While the 2007 squad continued Juniata's unprecedented success in the Molten Division III championship, its season ended with an EIVA tournament quarterfinal loss to Princeton - a team the Eagles defeated earlier in the year.

Heading into their 2008 campaign, the Eagles will be seeking to advance further into the EIVA tournament and challenge for a conference title, with a team featuring three returning starters and eight returning letterwinners.

Headlining the list of Juniata returnees is junior All-American setter Matt Werle, the 2007 AVCA Division III Player of the Year. Werle, who is arguably among the best setters in the country at any level in any conference, has gained invaluable experience over the last two years as a member of the United States Junior National Team. He was the starting setter for Team USA at the Junior World Championships this past summer in Morocco, where he helped the U.S team to a third place finish in its pool, seventh overall.

Werle tallied 1,326 assists last season (12.87 per game) with a team-high 30 service aces, to go with 169 digs and 90 total blocks.

Werle will be setting the offense for a talented group of hitters that features an intriguing mix of veteran experience and promising young talent.

Senior outside hitter Matt Fritz is Juniata's top returnee in total kills with 313 (3.23 per game), and will be counted on to be an even bigger producer during his final collegiate campaign. A Division III All-American and EIVA D-III All-Star last season, Fritz was passed over for All-EIVA honors - a goal which could be within reach this season for the heavy-hitting attacker.

Supporting Fritz at outside hitter is sophomore Zach Wanner. Wanner played in just three matches last season, but brings tremendous leaping ability to the lineup. Newcomers Dan Follett, Chris Vrooman, and Craig Harvey provide some added depth for Juniata at outside hitter. Vrooman is an outstanding leaper, while Follett is a steady passer and Harvey is an excellent all-around athlete.

Junior middle hitter Dan Powers returns to the lineup, where he tallied 47 blocks and 276 kills (2.12 per game) during his sophomore season and led the nation with a .492 attack percentage. Despite being a little undersized, Powers compensates with his quickness and efficiency. Sophomore Evan Halteman will play alongside Powers in the middle, where he is expected to become a force with his 6-7 frame. Freshman Josh Mummert will add depth for the Eagles as a reserve middle hitter.

Senior Zack Bock will fill a number of roles during his final season in the Blue and Gold, including serving as back-up setter and right side, in addition to being one of Juniata's top serving specialists. While Bock saw action in only seven games last season, he proved during the fall that he is capable of scoring with his serve and his defense in crucial situations. A solid all-around athlete, Juniata will look for ways to get Bock on the floor during 2008.

Sophomore Anthony Damiano will see time at libero during 2008, and has the physical gifts to possibly become one of the best passers in the EIVA by season's end. Freshmen Casey Baum and Armando Rosso, both back-ups at the libero position, and rookie opposite Brian Jaron will provide ball-control and dynamic serving for the Eagles.

Juniata's 2008 campaign opens January 23 with five straight home matches, which could be a huge advantage for the Eagles as they try and introduce some younger players into the starting lineup. The Eagles' EIVA slate begins on the weekend of February 1-2, as Juniata hosts New York University and George Mason University. Juniata will play its first road match on February 5, when they Eagles travel to State College, Pa., to face EIVA Tait Division pre-season pick Penn State.

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