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Men's volleyball gets aggressive against Ohio State, but Buckeyes come out on top in four sets

(Posted January 29, 2011)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Juniata College men's volleyball wasn't shy about challenging visiting Ohio State, but the Buckeyes stepped up their serving when they needed it and hung on for a 3-1 win over the Eagles, Saturday night at the Kennedy Sports + Recreation Center.

Set scores for Ohio State were 25-22, 19-25, 25-23, and 25-18. Juniata fell to 8-3 with the loss, while Ohio State improved to 4-2. The loss was Juniata's third straight defeat at the hands of Ohio State, since defeating the Buckeyes 3-2 in Huntingdon in the two teams' second matchup of the 2009 campaign.

Juniata hit .414 for the match, slightly better than Ohio State's .410 attack rate, and committed just 10 attack errors' to the Buckeyes' 15. The Eagles even out-blocked the Buckeyes, 11.0 total team blocks to 6.0 blocks.

Serving was a different issue. Ohio State served at slightly better than 87 percent with just 12 service errors, while Juniata posted a .753 serve percentage and nearly handed away a complete set with 22 service errors.

The Buckeyes seemed to find a different level for the service in the latter stages of sets one and three, effectively taking the Eagles out of system. In both sets, Juniata had slight leads at 18-17 but couldn't hang on for the win.

"We tell our players they come to Juniata to play the best, and tonight we had an opportunity to play one of the best teams in the country. I'm proud of how our guys fought; they made Ohio State earn every single point," said Juniata head coach Kevin Moore. "Ohio State had to earn their points to be the better team tonight."

"We executed our game plan at a very high level. We were aggressive from the service line, we were aggressive at the net blocking, and that was the highest level we've played at all year," added Moore.

Freshman opposite Alex McColgin (Hamburg, N.Y./Hamburg) made his first appearance in front of a home crowd memorable, logging a team-high 15 kills on 34 swings for a .294 hitting percentage from the right side. Junior middle Ben Wolff (Meadville, Pa./Meadville) tallied 12 kills on an error-free 16 swings for a .750 hitting percentage, and added three blocks.

"Alex has been doing this for us all year," said Moore. "Within our team and within our gym, we're seeing this on a regular basis, and Alex will continue to carry the load for us offensively for the rest of the year."

Outside hitters Chris Vrooman (Baden, Pa./Ambridge Area) and Ross Madden (Richmond, Va./Deep Run) tacked on nine and eight kills respectively, with Vrooman leading Juniata at the net with five blocks and Madden serving up a match-high five aces. Outside hitter Mike Kraft (York, Pa./Eastern York) finished with seven kills to go with three blocks and a team-high six digs.

Setter John Almquist (York, Pa./Central York) had 46 assists for the Eagles, and had a hand in four blocks.

Ohio State opposite Shawn Sangrey, the reigning MIVA Offensive Player of the Week, put down 23 kills on 46 swings, a .326 hitting percentage. Middle hitter Kevin Heine recorded eight kills on his 12 attacks, while fellow middle Mike Stewart and outside hitter Jason Tobkin finished with seven kills each.

Juniata's lone set victory came in set two, as the Eagles won five points in the six-point stretch to take a 19-13 lead. Vrooman and McColgin posted kills during that stretch, and Almquist, Wolff, and Vrooman combined on a triple block of a Sangrey attack.

A pair of side out points advanced the score to 20-14 in Juniata's favor. From there, each side added a point to its score before siding out, with Juniata eventually landing on set point thanks to a Sangrey attack error. After a Madden service error and a block by Ohio State's John Klanac, Juniata put away the set with a Vrooman kill.

In set three, Juniata held its last lead at 20-19 following an Ohio State attack error, but a Sangrey kill and a Buckeye block reverted the lead back to Ohio State, 21-20. Six straight side out points forced the score to 24-23 for the Buckeyes, who sealed the set with a Steven Kehoe service ace.

"In games one and three, when it got tight at the end, Ohio State ramped up its serving," said Moore. "They made errors earlier on those games... but at the end of game three there was an ace right in the 5-6 seam - a well-placed serve with a lot of pace - and they did the same thing at the end of game one."

Set four was decided relatively early, as a four-point run left Ohio State with a 13-9 lead and the Buckeyes later added to that with a three-point run that moved the score to 16-11. A four-point Ohio State surge ended the match, with Sangrey accounting for three of the four on a block, a kill, and a service ace.

"I told our guys after the match that from an offensive standpoint and a defensive standpoint, this was our best match this year," said Moore. "The challenge we have going forward is this needs to be our baseline - every day in practice and in every match going forward, we need to play at this level."

Juniata returns to action on Friday, Feb. 4, when it hosts the New Jersey Institute of Technology at 7:00 p.m. at the Kennedy Sports + Recreation Center.

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