(Posted November 17, 2005)

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Salem, Va. - The Juniata College women's volleyball team was making its 25th appearance in the NCAA quarterfinals Thursday night in Salem, Va., while New England Region Champion Colby College was playing in the quarterfinals for the first time. That experience proved to be the difference as Juniata claimed a 3-0 victory over Colby to advance to the NCAA Division III Women's Volleyball Semifinals for the 20th time in the program's history. Juniata will take on Wittenberg University in the semifinals at 7 pm in Salem. Juniata improved to 36-1 with the victory, while Colby closes its season with a record of 37-4.

The Eagles took control mid-way through game one. Leading 9-6, Juniata scored six of the next seven points, behind a block and a kill from Stephanie Kines (Towson/Towson, Md.) to take a 14-7 lead and force a Colby timeout. After a Colby kill from Kaitlin Adams brought the Mules within five, the Eagles ripped off 10 of the next 11 points sparked by two kills and a solo block from Katie Laucks (West York/York) to move in front 23-12. It would not get much closer as the Eagles scored the final seven points of the game, two of them on Jessica Ritchey (Greencastle-Antrim/Greencastle) aces.

"I thought we got off to a real good start, coming out hard and fast and put Colby back on its heels a little bit," Juniata Head Coach Larry Bock said. "We were able to exploit some match-ups that worked to our advantage, and our middles were pretty productive. Colby gave us a real good test in game two and really raised their level. But we held on and I think they got a little rattled after that."

The Eagles were forced to come from behind in game two, as Colby claimed a late lead on several kills from Cait Cleaver. A Cleaver kill followed by a double block from Adams and Maria Daly gave the Mules a 26-23 lead. The Eagles quickly cut into the lead with back-to-back aces from Kristi Fitzsimmons (Diamond Rach/Pomona, Calif.) to tie the game at 26. Colby countered with a kill from Adams, followed by a Cleaver kill and a then a double block by Megan Devin and Lawler put Colby at game point 29-27. But Juniata staved off defeat with a Rachael Schatz (West Perry/Elliotsburg) kill, and Laucks followed with back-to-back aces after a Colby error giving the Eagles a 31-29 win.

Juniata clinched the match by rolling to a 30-16 win in game three. Juniata used an early surge to put the Mules away. A pair of Schatz kills and a pair of double blocks from Ritchey and Kines gave the Blue and Gold a commanding 12-6 edge. The Eagles continued to add to the lead as a Kines kill followed by a block from Kines and Erin Albert (Philipsburg-Osceola/Philipsburg) moved the lead to 18-8. Colby pulled back within eight following consecutive double blocks from Adams and Julie Hike and then another Adams kill. The Eagles responded with a kill from Amber Thomas (Conestoga Valley/Ephrata) and an Abby Leonard (Shade/Johnstown) to halt the run and then closed the match with a Thomas ace and a final kill from Laucks.

Schatz led the Eagles with 12 kills, while Kines and Thomas added 11 and 10 respectively. Ritchey passed out 37 assists and added four serve aces and 10 digs. Tara McMinn (Huntingdon/Huntingdon) finished with a team-high 19 digs. Kines led all players with five blocks.

Cleaver finished with eight kills for Colby, while Adams added seven and a pair of blocks. Jenny Lawrence passed out 21 kills for the Mules while Kendall Kirby led all players with 20 digs. Colby had four players finish with at least 10 digs.

Juniata will face Wittenberg for the second time this season. The Eagles claimed a 3-2 victory at Wittenberg in the season opener for both teams.

"It's going to be the same old story, passing and serving," Bock said. "We're going to have to pass and serve very well against Wittenberg. I think we won the serving battle tonight, and we'll have to do that again tomorrow."


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