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Women's volleyball notches 29th straight conference crown with win over Susquehanna

(Posted November 7, 2009)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Juniata College captured its 29th consecutive women's volleyball conference championship with a 3-0 win over Susquehanna University, Saturday night at the Kennedy Sports + Recreation Center. Set scores for the Eagles were 25-21, 27-25, and 25-12.

The win allows Juniata (31-3) to gain entry into the 2009 NCAA Division III Women's Volleyball Championship through the Landmark Conference's automatic qualifier, after being taken as an at-large selection in the last two seasons.

The win was also Juniata's 315th consecutive victory over a conference opponent in regular season or post-season competition.

Senior opposite Paige Johnston (Lancaster, Pa./Hempfield) and sophomore outside hitter Drew Barnhart (Titusville, Pa./Titusville) paced Juniata offensively with 14 and 12 kills respectively. Defensively, Megan Sollenberger's (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Cumberland Valley) 13 digs led a Juniata squad that turned up 52 digs to Susquehanna's 46.

Junior setter Steph Strauss (Penn Hills, Pa./Penn Hills) logged 39 assists while running a Juniata offense that hit .286 for the match. Susquehanna, meanwhile, was held to just .057 hitting on the night.

Despite that attack percentage, the Crusaders (25-12) gave the Eagles all they could handle in the first two sets.

In the first set, the Crusaders held a 10-7 lead after a Megan Sollenberger service error backed against a service ace by Susquehanna's Kate Reese. A Barnhart kill ended the Susquehanna run, and Juniata rattled off the next five points off of Strauss serves to take a 13-10 lead.

The Crusaders battled back to take a two-point lead as late as 19-17, but back-to-back kills by Johnston and Kristin Noetzel (Closter, N.J./Northern Valley Regional) knotted the set at 19-19. Four straight side out points advanced the score to 21-21, and the Eagles finished the set with a four-point run to post the win. Johnston had two kills and a block assist during Juniata's final push to seal the set one victory.

Susquehanna fought its way back from a 19-15 deficit late in the second set, eventually tying the game at 20-20 on a Barnhart attack error. After a pair of side out points, two Juniata attack errors allowed Susquehanna to take a 23-21 lead. Twin kills by Johnston tied the set at 23-23, and five side out points later the Eagles held a 26-25 advantage serving for set point. A Barnhart kill sewed up the set two win, putting Juniata in command of the match heading into the third set.

A see-saw contest in the early-going of set three was broken wide open at 9-8, thanks to consecutive kills by Noetzel and Barnhart off the serve of Megan Sollenberger. Juniata rattled off two more points on another Barnhart kill and a Susquehanna attack error, taking a 13-8 lead.

Five straight side out points stretched Juniata's led to 15-10. The Eagles chalked up the next six points on Molly Sollenberger's (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Cumberland Valley) serve, widening the led to 21-10. Six points later, a setting error by Susquehanna on championship point ended the match.

Susquehanna's Lindsey Jankiewicz led the Crusaders with seven kills and two service aces, while Jess Cicioni logged six kills.

Earlier in the day, Juniata knocked off Goucher College in its semifinal match, 3-0. Set scores for the Eagles were 25-17, 25-15, and 25-17.

Juniata played all 16 players on its roster, with Schnader pacing the Eagles offensively with seven kills on 11 swings. Fuller and Morchesky tacked on six kills , while Megan Sollenberger recorded five aces against the Gophers.

The Eagles hit .271 against the Gophers, while holding Goucher to a .129 attack percentage. Juniata outblocked Goucher, 5.0 to 0.0.

Juniata will host an NCAA Regional at the Kennedy Sports + Recreation Center on November 12-14. The full NCAA tournament bracket and pairings are scheduled to be release on Monday, Nov. 9, at 11:00 a.m. Eastern time.

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