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Juniata advances to Regional Championship with 3-1 win over Mount Union

(Posted November 13, 2009)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Juniata College survived a third-set comeback from Mount Union College and posted a 3-1 win over the Purple Raiders, in Friday night's second Regional Semifinal match at the NCAA Division III Women's Volleyball Championship Juniata Regional.

Set scores for Juniata were 25-17, 25-17, 22-25, and 25-17.

Four players posted double-digit kill totals for Juniata (33-3), led by sophomore outside hitter Drew Barnhart with 17 kills on 38 swings with only three errors. Freshman middle Kelsey Fuller tacked on 14 kills, while senior opposite Paige Johnston and sophomore middle Amanda Schmidt added 11 apiece.

Four Eagles also recorded 10 or more digs, led by senior libero Megan Sollenberger with 19 digs. Juniata out-dug Mount Union, 76-68.

Junior setter Steph Strauss logged 53 assists while running a Juniata offense that hit .267 for the match.

Senior middle Sarah Parker paced Mount Union with nine kills while hitting .172 for the match, and had a hand in a pair of Purple Raider blocks. Senior outside hitter Melissa Mahnke and junior outside hitter Monica Hupertz had eight kills each.

Mount Union (23-7) hit just .184 in the third set, its only set victory of the match, but recorded 11 points on serve. Parker had four of her nine kills in the third set to pace the Purple Raiders attack.

The Purple Raiders were aided by a Juniata offense that committed 22 attack errors - one more than Mount Union - and logged 14 service errors, second-most this season.

"The match had a unique tempo to it," said Juniata head coach Larry Bock. "We were scoring points a little too easily, and then we saw a different Mount Union team in game three and were kind of forced to adjust. It's so much better that the kids had to respond and adjust tonight, in preparation for a tough match against a good Eastern team tomorrow."

"I agree with (Associate Head Coach) Heather (Pavlik) that that was as challenging an opponent as we've seen in the second round of the tournament in quite a while," said Bock.

Juniata successfully attacked down the lines against Mount Union in the first set, with Paige Johnston logging five kills and Steph Strauss adding four as the Eagles hit .406 for the set. The Eagles jumped out to a 13-6 lead, following a pair of kills by Kelsey Fuller and Johnston, and cruised to the opening set win.

The Juniata defense stepped to the fore in the second set, as the Eagles logged 19 digs in the frame and held Mount Union to just three points on serve. The Eagles built on their early 4-1 lead in the set, and slowly pulled away from the Purple Raiders from there. Juniata required three attempts at set point against Mount Union, before a Johnston block sealed the win.

Mount Union rallied in the third set, hitting .184 for the frame while holding the Eagles to just .125 on attack. Juniata was in control of the set at 14-10, coming off an Amanda Schmidt kill, and a pair of side out points advanced the score to 15-11.

A service error by Johnston and four straight Mount Union points off the serve of Nicole Baka tied the set at 15-15, and the two teams traded the lead back-and-forth all the way to 20-20. A Fuller attack error gave the Purple Raiders a 21-20 lead, which became 22-20 on a Sarah Parker kill. Fuller's side out kill pulled Juniata back to within one at 22-21, but Mount Union's Roni Schroeder notched two straight kills to put the Purple Raiders on set point. Two points later, a Fuller attack error allowed Mount Union to steal the set.

Mount Union threatened to steal the fourth set as well, and held a 9-7 lead after kills by Parker and Hupertz. A Purple Raider attack error and a kill by junior middle Kristin Noetzel knotted the set at 9-9, and two more Mount Union attack errors stretched the Juniata run to 11-9. Juniata held onto at least a two point lead the rest of the way, finally closing out the set on a pair of Mount Union attack errors.

Juniata will face Eastern University in Saturday night's Regional Championship match. This will be the second consecutive season that Juniata and Eastern have squared off in the Regional Championship match; Juniata posted a 3-0 win over Eastern in last season's Regional final in Huntingdon.

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