(Posted January 11, 2005)

Huntingdon, PA - How does a collegiate athletic program become a consistent power? One of those teams that wins titles year after year and just never seems to slow down. While there may not be one secret recipe for that type of success, certainly a key ingredient is having younger players step into bigger roles following the graduation of major contributors. After the graduation of several key players from the immensely successful 2004 men's volleyball squad, the 2005 Juniata College men's volleyball team's success may very well depend on some less familiar faces stepping up and helping the Eagles do something that has become very common over the past few years - win.

Now in his third season at the helm of the Eagle program, head coach Ken Shibuya enters the 2005 season needing to replace four graduated seniors, three of which were selected as Division III AVCA All-Americans in 2004. Yet despite the losses, Shibuya sees great reason for optimism as the Eagles get set to begin play this season.

"I honestly believe this team has a chance to be better than last year," Shibuya said. "This is an incredibly competitive group of players, and they are committed to building a Juniata legacy. This is the most focused and committed team I've ever had entering a season."

Along with that focus, and despite the losses, there is still plenty of talent on hand to help the team reach the lofty goals that the coach and players have set for themselves. Coming off a season in which Juniata captured its second Molten Division III National Championship, along with the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) Division III title, the Eagles continue to set their sights even higher.

"Our guys don't want to just be known as one of the top Division III teams in the country, they want to be known as one of the best men's teams in the country," Shibuya explained. "They know that it's going to take a lot of hard work to reach that level, but they also know that it is possible."

Though Juniata's success could rely on players taking on greater roles, the Eagles will be lead by returning setter Ricky Ziegler (Northeastern/Manchester) who will be in his third season as a regular starter. The lone senior on the roster, Ziegler earned Division III All-America honors, and first-team All-EIVA recognition as a junior.
"Ricky is going to be a big key to our success this season," Shibuya said. "He's the type of player who brings everything together, and makes the players around him better. He's among the best setters in the East, regardless of division."

Along with Ziegler there are several other Eagles back in the fold that saw significant playing time last season. Junior libero Tim Cole (Pennsbury/Yardley) was a Division III All-America as a sophomore, and leads the Eagle defense. Cordt Withum (Penn Manor/Holtwood) and Jeremy Barndt (Souderton/Souderton) both have considerable game experience and give Juniata as strong a duo of middle hitters as any team in Division III. Sophomores Glenn DeHaven (Walt Whitman/South Huntington, N.Y.) and Steve Yeager (Hempfield/East Petersburg) were also factors as freshmen, and expect to see larger roles in their second year on College Hill. Overall Juniata has 12 returning athletes from last season's team, and has added five first-year performers and a transfer.

While the 2005 Juniata team has slightly less experience than its predecessor, it trumps the 2004 edition in another key elementâ�"depth. The Eagles will have the ability to go three or four players deep at nearly every position, which gives the coaching staff the luxury of going with the hot player or making changes mid-match if things aren't working. This depth is most pronounced at the outside hitter position where Juniata has as many as five players who could start at that position.

"Despite the loss of our seniors, this is easily as deep as we've ever been," Shibuya said. "I believe in having competition within the team to help us prepare for an opponent. We've got a lot of really talented players on this team, and if they earn the right to play, they will play."

As is the case every year, Juniata will face a schedule as tough as any Division III program in the country. It starts with a match at Division I Ohio State and will see the team take on perennial Division I powers Ball State, IPFW, Penn State, George Mason, Rutgers-Newark and Princeton. The Eagles will also tangle top Division III foes Springfield and New York as part of the EIVA Tait Division schedule.

"We want to play against the best, and see if we can handle it as a team," Shibuya said. "Our guys have a great deal of confidence from our success last year, and they aren't afraid of anyone. More than anything I think that's our biggest advantage. The question will be how our younger players handle the pressure. I think they are ready to accept that bigger role and take on the challenges."

Those challenges remain great, particularly when considering the recent achievements of the Juniata men's volleyball program. But those recent achievements suggest that despite the lofty goals and the loss of some talented players, the Juniata volleyball faithful shouldn't be surprised if the Eagles go ahead and have another big year in 2005.


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Contact April Feagley at feaglea@juniata.edu or (814) 641-3131 for more information.