(Posted April 28, 2005)

University Park, Pa. - In a season of firsts the Juniata College men's volleyball team nearly pulled off another as the Eagles rallied from a two-game deficit to force a deciding fifth game before falling to George Mason University 3-2 in the EIVA Semifinal round in University Park Thursday evening. It marks the second time in as many years that Juniata has dropped a five-game decision in the semifinal round. The Eagles end their season with a record of 20-8, marking just the fourth 20-win season in the program's history. George Mason improved to 19-9 with the win, and will face the winner of the semifinal between Penn State and Rutgers-Newark on Saturday.

Juniata's bid to become the first-ever Division III program to reach the EIVA Championship came up short as the Eagles fell by game scores of 30-28, 30-24, 27-30, 27-30 and 15-12.

In the decisive game five, Juniata took the largest lead early as an attack error gave the Blue and Gold a 6-4 edge. The Patriots would come back to take the lead but a double block from Jeremy Barndt (Souderton/Souderton) and Ricky Ziegler (Northeastern/Manchester) tied the game at eight. Mason then moved in front 10-8 after back-to-back kills from R.J. Goubeaux. Juniata pulled within four times the rest of the way, but could never pull back into a tie, and the Patriots then closed the 15-12 win with an ace from Felix Campos.

The Patriots put the Eagles in an early hole as a pair of serve aces from Kyle Swanson pushed the lead to 19-14, Juniata put together a 7-2 run to cut the lead to 21-20. A kill from Nick Bernardo (Christopher Dock/Lansdale) capped the run. The teams then traded points before GMU claimed a 24-21 edge. The Eagles countered as double block from Barndt and Nate Ocasio (Northeastern/Manchester) followed by a Steve Yeager (Hempfield/East Petersburg) ace and another block this time from Barndt and Glenn DeHaven (Walt Whitman/South Huntingdon, N.Y.) put Juniata in front for the first time 27-25. The Patriots answer with back-to-back points to tie the score at 27. Later tied at 28, two strong serves from Shaun Powell led to kills for Goubeaux and Powell to give George Mason a 30-28 win.

Game two followed a similar pattern. The Patriots slowly pulled out to a six-point lead, with kills from Matt Steinfurth leading the offense. Trailing 21-15, the Eagles then made a move as kills from DeHaven and Ocasio highlighted a 4-1 run that cut the lead to 22-19. But George Mason answered with three kills from Hudson Bates that was part of a 6-2 run that gave Mason a 28-21 lead. Juniata made one final push as a kill from Matt Springer (William Allen/Allentown) helped Juniata cut the lead to 28-23 but that was as close as it got as the Patriots claimed the 30-24 win.

The Eagles led early in game three as a block from Bernardo and Cordt Withum (Penn Manor/Holtwood) them a 12-9 edge. The teams exchanged points for a long stretch, with neither side claiming more than a two-point lead. A kill from Ocasio put Juniata in front 20-19, only to see the Patriots reel off three-straight points to take a 22-20 lead. A pair of DeHaven kills was the answer for Juniata as the Eagles surged back in front 25-23, forcing a Patriot timeout. Yeager came out of the timeout with a service ace, and then Ocasio sealed the win with a kill giving the Eagles the 30-27 triumph.

Game four saw the Eagles jump out of the blocks quickly. A triple block from Ricky Ziegler (Northeastern/Manchester), DeHaven and Barndt followed by an Ocasio ace put Juniata in front 17-12. Mason battled back, riding the arm of Powell to a 3-0 run which cut the lead to 19-17. A Withum kill halted the run and Juniata finally dug Powell and converted it into an Ocasio kill to take a 25-21 lead. A service error then sealed the 30-27 win and sent the match to a fifth game.

Ocasio led Juniata with 18 kills in the match, while posting a .324 hitting percentage. Juniata hit .384 as a team as Ziegler passed out 54 assists in the contest. Bernardo finished with 17 kills for the Blue and Gold, while Barndt had 12 finishes and a team-best seven blocks. Tim Cole (Pennsbury/Yardley) paced the team with nine digs.

Powell notched 33 kills in the match, while attacking at a remarkable .609 clip. Bates, Goubeaux and Steinfurth were all also in double figures as they closed with 14, 11 and 10 kills respectively. Dave Egan registered 66 assists in the match, and helped the Patriots hit .370 as a team. Steinfurth led all players with 10 digs, while Goubeaux added a team-high five blocks.

Juniata closes a season in which they went undefeated against Division III opponents and claimed both the Molten Men's Division III National Invitational, and EIVA Division III titles. Juniata finished the year 8-8 against Division I opponents, and had two victories over teams that were ranked in the top-15 in Division I during the season. The Eagles reached the EIVA Semifinal for just the third time in the program's history. The Blue and Gold will return all but one player from this year's squad.


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