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Calvin College rallies to upset third-ranked Juniata, 3-2, in 2010 NCAA Division III Volleyball semifinals

(Posted November 21, 2010)

Information and accounts courtesy the NCAA and Washington Univ. Sports Information

ST. LOUIS, MO. -- An elusive third national championship for Juniata College women's volleyball evaded the Eagles once again - although it's been a few years since Juniata's title hopes ended in such a rude fashion.

Third-ranked and sixth-seeded Juniata couldn't quite close the deal on its 2-0 lead over 10th-ranked Calvin College, and fell to the Knights, 3-2, in an NCAA Division III Women's Volleyball Championship national semifinal on Saturday afternoon at the Washington University Field House.

Set scores for Calvin were 14-25, 17-25, 25-23, 25-22, 15-12.

The loss to Calvin (31-4) marked the first time since 2002 that Juniata dropped an NCAA tournament match after taking a 2-0 lead.

Midway through the third set, Juniata (34-6) had the berth in the title match in its sights and was looking to close out the Knights after a Kelsey Fuller (Red Lion, Pa./Red Lion) service ace gave the Eagles a 16-8 lead. A Megan Rietema kill and a Lizzie Kamp service ace cut the Juniata lead to six points, but a kill by Drew Barnhart (Titusville, Pa./Titusville) stretched the lead back to 17-10.

Back to back kills by Rietema and Kamp brought Calvin to within five of Juniata, before Eagle senior Steph Strauss (Penn Hills, Pa./Penn Hills) ended the run with a kill. The Knights scored the next three points, cutting the Juniata lead to 18-15, and a pair of side-out kills moved to the score to 19-16.

A Renee DeHann and Kamp block of a Barnhart shot cut Juniata's lead to just two points in the third, and the Knights trailed by just one, 21-20, thanks to back-to-back kills from Rietema and Kamp.

Juniata's Fuller was blocked by Lizzie Kamp and DeHaan on the next play, resulting in a tie score, and the Knights used another kill from DeHaan to complete the comeback and retake the lead. Calvin continued to hold a 23-22 lead after a pair of side-out kills by Juniata's Kristin Noetzel (Closter, N.J./Northern Valley Regional) and Calvin's Kamp; back-to-back blocks by Rietema and Eagle middle Amanda Schmidt (Boswell, Pa./North Star) put the Knights on set point. A Rebecca Kamp kill clinched the set three win for Calvin.

DeHaan had four kills to lead Calvin in its third-set win and the Knights attacked .412 as a team after hitting below .200 through the first two sets.

"We just got real conservative from the middle of the third set on. Calvin stepped it up a bunch, and we just we're able to respond for a lot of different reasons," said Juniata head coach Larry Bock. "Most of that was on Calvin - they simply played great. Hitting numbers indicate they really got it going, and we helped them along by being really conservative."

Rebecca Kamp led made sure the momentum stayed with the Knights to start the fourth set, tallying three kills and two blocks to help Calvin jump out to a 6-0 lead. Juniata survived the opening moments of the fourth and regained the lead with Noetzel registering three kills over a span of five points.

The Eagles built a 17-13 lead before the see-saw fourth set swung back in the favor of Calvin. The Knights scored five-straight points to take a one-point lead. Juniata responded with a 3-0 run to briefly lead by two, but Calvin took advantage of several Juniata attack errors down the stretch to force a fifth-set.

Two-straight setter dumps from Juniata's Strauss helped the Eagles jump out to a 4-1 lead in the fifth, but Calvin retook a 6-5 lead following a Noetzel hitting error and led 8-7 at the switchover after Barnhart sent a serve into the net. Harpster sent a shot wide left on the next play DeHaan notched her ninth kill to put the Knights up by three, 10-7, and on their way to the national championship match.

Strong serving from Juniata powered the Eagles to a 2-0 lead early in the match. Barnhart registered six aces through the first two and a half sets, but was unable to drop a serve in for a score again as Calvin shored up its passing to neutralize one of Juniata's greatest team strengths. The Eagles finished with 16 aces compared to just four for the Knights, but a majority of those scores came in the first half of the match.

Rebecca Kamp had 17 kills and hit .389 to lead Calvin's comeback, while Erin VanderPlas registered 13 kills for a .440 hitting percentage. Juniata saw four players reach double digit kills, and were led by Barnhart's 19 kills, six aces and 12 digs, and Noetzel, who finished with 11 kills and a .450 hitting percentage to go with three blocks.

Strauss was two kills shy of recording a triple double, with 53 assists, 17 digs and eight kills. Junior Libby Morrison (Portland, Ore./Oregon Episcopal School) sprawled for 70 digs, a sizable chunk of Juniata's 70 digs for the match. Fuller tallied 12 kills for the Eagles, while Schmidt logged 11 kills with two blocks.

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