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No. 2 Juniata MVB upends no. 1 Springfield, 3-1, to clinch Molten Invitational berth

(Posted March 27, 2009)

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Juniata College had to survive its longest set in the rally-scoring era and stage a comeback in set three to post a 3-1 victory over top-ranked Springfield College, Friday night at Springfield's Blake Arena.

Set scores were 28-30, 41-39, 30-28, and 30-25.

The win over Springfield allowed the second-ranked Eagles to clinch the EIVA berth in the 2009 Molten Invitational, which will take place on April 17-18 at Ramapo College in Mahwah, N.J.

"This was a great match in a great atmosphere," said Juniata head coach Jeremy Price. "This was everything you would expect in a match between number one and number two in the nation."

Juniata (11-7, 5-4 EIVA Tait) had four players finish with double-digit kill totals, led by junior outside hitter Zach Wanner (Lancaster, Pa./Hempfield) with 24 kills on 61 swings with 15 errors. Senior middle Dan Powers (Lancaster, Pa./Manheim Township) tallied 15 kills on 25 swings for a .480 attack percentage, while sophomore outside hitter Chris Vrooman (Baden, Pa./Ambridge Area) had 14 kills.

Junior middle Evan Halteman (Perkiomenville, Pa./Christopher Dock) had 13 kills to go with his team-high seven total blocks.

Junior libero Anthony Damiano (Lititz, Pa./Manheim Township) finished with 20 digs, giving him the first 20-dig match of his career. Senior Matt Werle (Meadville, Pa./Meadville) logged 64 assists, just two off his season high.

After dropping the opening set to the Pride, Juniata took an early 7-3 lead in the second set. Springfield eventually pulled even with Juniata at 15-15, following a three-point run by the Pride. Juniata took a slim lead at 25-21, taking advantage of a service error and attack error by Springfield's AJ Nally, but the Pride again knotted the set at 28-28.

A Wanner kill put the Eagles on set point at 29-28, but a Ryan Frederickson kill denied Juniata the set and knotted the affair at 29-29. That exchange launched a see-saw run of nine straight sideout points, giving Juniata five cracks at set point, before a pair of Mark Ribeiro kills flipped the advantage and put Springfield in front, 34-33. The Pride had four shots of its own at taking the set, but proved unable to close out the Eagles.

Consecutive kills by Halteman put the Eagles back on set point, 39-38, but a Wanner service error tied the set back up at 39-39. Vrooman terminated a Werle set give Juniata a 40-39 lead, and then Wanner finally ended the marathon when he finished off another Werle set to give the Eagles the 41-39 win.

The set was Juniata's longest in the rally-scoring era, surpassing a 39-37 loss in the second set of a 3-1 win over Mercyhurst College during the 2008 season.

Juniata trailed 20-17 in set three, but a four-point run off the serve of Dan Follett (Cranberry Township, Pa./Seneca Valley) that including consecutive kills by Wanner left the set tied at 23-23. The contest was still tied at 28-28, when kills by Halteman and Powers gave the Eagles the win.

The fourth set was pretty effectively managed by Juniata, who held an 18-11 lead following a Halteman kill, Vrooman service ace, and Wanner kill. Springfield closed in on Juniata at 21-19 thanks to three straight Eagle attack errors, but a three-point run pulled Juniata away from Springfield and out of danger.

Wanner's kill on match-point at 29-25 began the Juniata celebration, as the Eagles earned their record-setting 10th trip to the Molten Division III Invitational.

"To fend off the four set points they had in game two was huge," said Price. "We showed some mental strength that we haven't always displayed this season."

Juniata continues its two-match road trip on Saturday when it faces NJIT in an EIVA Tait matchup. Start time is scheduled for 5:00 p.m. in Newark, N.J.

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