(Posted April 14, 2005)

Huntingdon, PA - The Juniata College men's volleyball team will be looking to defend its national championship when the Eagles begin competition at the 2005 Molten Division III Men's Volleyball Invitational Championship Friday April 15 at the Canavan Arena on the campus of Stevens Tech in Hoboken, N.J. Juniata enters the four-team event as the top-ranked team in Division III and as the number-one seed. The Eagles will take on fourth-seed Medialle College (N.Y.) in the first semifinal on Friday at 5:00 p.m., while second-seed and host Stevens Tech will battle Carthage College (Wis.) in the other semifinal. The consolation match will be played at 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, with the championship match to follow.

Juniata (17-7) earned a berth in the Molten Tournament by claiming the EIVA Division III Championship with a 3-1 victory over New York this past Saturday. Juniata has held the top spot in the CSTV/AVCA Division III Top-15 Coaches Poll each week of the 2005 season, and have not lost to a Division III opponent this season. The tournament features three other teams ranked in the top-10 of the Division III poll, including two top-five teams. Host Stevens Tech (24-7) holds down the fourth spot in the poll and secured the automatic bid granted to the host institution. Carthage (16-8) is ranked fifth in the country, and was chosen to the field as the at-large representative from the Midwest/West regions. Medaille (19-8) is the ninth-ranked team in Division III and earned its bid after finishing as the runner-up to Stevens Tech in the NECVA Tournament this past weekend.

Juniata's first-round match will be a rematch of the Molten Championship match from 2004, which the Eagles won by a 3-0 score. Juniata is looking for its third Molten Championship, as the Eagles captured the crown in 1998 and 2004. None of the other three teams in the field have earned a Molten Championship in the eight-year history of the event.

Juniata enters the tournament having won 13 of its last 14 matches.Juniata is 1-0 this season against the Molten field, having claimed a 3-0 win over Stevens Tech during the regular season. The tournament will feature seven players who earned spots on the American Volleyball Coaches Association Division III All-America Team which was announced earlier in the week. Juniata led all teams with five players on the team, including four first-team selections. Carthage earned one first-team and one second-team selection on the team.

Juniata is led by senior setter, and first-team All-America Ricky Ziegler (Northeastern/Manchester). Ziegler leads the team in assists with 1,047 and recently moved past the 3,000 assist mark for his career. He has helped the Juniata offense attack at a .340 clip which ranks among the leaders in Division III and he leads the EIVA in assists per game. He also leads the team with 35 serve aces and ranks third on the team in blocks and fourth in digs. Sophomore opposite Nate Ocasio (Northeastern/Manchester) leads the Juniata team in kills with 253, while adding 15 aces, and 80 digs which helped him capture first-team All-America honors. Junior middle Cordt Withum (Penn Manor/Holtwood) was another first-team All-American as he paces Juniata with a .503 hitting percentage, and ranks third on the team with 204 kills. His .503 hitting percentage ranks second in the EIVA while he also ranks second on Juniata in blocks (72). Sophomore middle Jeremy Barndt (Souderton/Souderton) is tops on the Eagle team with 75 blocks, and is second in kills (210) and hitting percentage (.437). His production earned him first-team All-American laurels. Junior libero Tim Cole (Pennsbury/Yardley) was a second-team All-American and leads Juniata with 165 digs.

The Molten Championship was formed due to a need for a culminating event for Division III men's volleyball. While the NCAA sponsors a national championship for men's volleyball, programs from all three divisions compete for just four berths in the yearly tournament. In the 32-year history of the men's tournament, no Division III program has been selected to participate in the NCAA National Collegiate Men's Volleyball Championship.


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