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Noetzel and Barnhart lead sixth-seeded Juniata women's volleyball past St. Thomas, 3-0

(Posted November 19, 2010)

Courtesy the NCAA and Washington Univ. Sports Information

ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- No. 3 and sixth-seeded Juniata College earned a return trip to the NCAA semifinals with a 3-0 win over no. 12 and third-seeded St. Thomas University on Friday, Nov. 19, in the NCAA Division III Women's Volleyball Championship quarterfinals at the Washington University Field House.

The Eagles (34-5) will play the winner of the match between no. 10 Calvin College and no. 24 University of Massachusetts Boston in the semifinals on Saturday, Nov. 20, at 3:30 p.m. It is the seventh-straight trip to the semifinals for Juniata.

Senior Kristin Noetzel (Closter, N.J./Northern Valley Regional) and junior Drew Barnhart (Titusville, Pa./Titusville) led Juniata to the sweep, registering 10 kills apiece. Barnhart also recorded four aces and four digs while Noetzel hit .412 with a pair of blocks. Senior setter Steph Strauss (Penn Hills, Pa./Penn Hills) filled out the stat sheet with 33 assists, a match-high 18 digs and seven kills.

The Eagles limited St. Thomas, who was making its first-ever appearance in the NCAA quarterfinals, to just .106 hitting. Katie Bonine, Jill Osborne and Alesha Nelson powered the Tommies' attack with seven kills apiece, and Nelson hit a team-high .400 in the quarterfinal loss.

Juniata overcame a slow start to the first set to come away with a 25-22 win. The Eagles trailed 13-8 midway through the first and were hitting .000 as a team with five kills and five errors. Following a timeout Strauss powered a 6-2 run, recording two kills during that stretch to pull her team within one score.

The Eagles completed the comeback with a Kelsey Fuller (Red Lion, Pa./Red Lion) kill, and led by one following a Jordan Hopper (Laguna Beach, Calif./St. Margaret's Episcopal) ace on the next play. St. Thomas briefly regained a one-point lead before Juniata rattled off a 3-0 run to end the set. Another ace, this time from Taylor Harpster (Philipsburg, Pa./Philipsburg-Osceola) put the Eagles ahead by one, and a Barnhart kill put the frame out of reach.

Three kills early from Nelson helped St. Thomas start strong in the second set, but again Juniata withstood every St. Thomas run. Noetzel registered two-straight kills to tie the second set at 18-18, and blocked down a Bonine attack to provide Juniata with a one-point lead.

Nelson's fourth kill of the second set put St. Thomas back up by one, 20-19, however, kills from Juniata's Fuller and Noetzel quickly put the Eagles back in front as Juniata won six of the final eight points of the set.

Juniata started strong in the third and really created some distance thanks to an incredible Barnhart serving run. Barnhart entered the NCAA quarterfinal with 13 kills in five postseason matches, including the Landmark Conference tournament and the first three rounds of the NCAA Championship. She registered four aces during a 6-0 third-set Eagle run in that ended with two-time national champions ahead by eight points.

The Tommies did rally from the seven-point deficit, pulling within two on a kill from Osborne, but Juniata responded by taking the next three scores to regain the momentum for good.

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