(Posted April 1, 2006)

Huntingdon, PA ? In a match that is everything a battle between the first and second-ranked teams in the country should be the top-ranked Juniata College men?s volleyball team found a way to escape a two-game deficit and two match points to claim a 3-2 victory over New York University in the championship match of the EIVA Division III Tournament. With the victory, Juniata earns an automatic berth in the 2006 Molten Division III Men?s Invitational Volleyball Championship where the Eagles will be looking to claim their third-straight Molten Championship.

After New York (10-13) won the first two games, Juniata (10-11) rallied to win the final three games including a thrilling game four to post the 28-30, 23-30, 30-26, 34-32, 15-10 victory. Nate Ocasio (Northeastern/Manchester) pounded out a career-high 32 kills as he was named the tournament Most Valuable Player.

In the critical game four neither team held more than a three point lead. New York took control late in the game as back-to-back blocks from Devin Zolnowski gave the visitors a 27-24 edge. A Macnair Sillick kill made it 29-27 New York, and gave the Violets two chances to close out the match. The Eagles staved off elimination with consecutive kills from Glenn DeHaven (Walt Whitman/South Huntington, N.Y.) and Matt Fritz (John Caroll/Churchville, Md.) to tie the score at 29, and then took the lead on an Ocasio solo block. It was then NYU?s turn to avoid elimination with kills from Jonathan Wintermeyer and Macnair Sillick, but the Eagles responded with two DeHaven kills and then closed the game with a double block from Matt Werle (Meadville/Meadville) and Jeremy Barndt (Souderton/Souderton).

Juniata took the momentum from game four and jumped to an early lead with a pair of double blocks and a DeHaven kill. New York would eventually move within one at 7-6 bit the Eagles countered with another double block this one from Cordt Withum (Penn Manor/Holtwood) and Fritz to take a commanding 9-6 lead. Juniata then added late kills from Ocasio and DeHaven to close the comeback victory.

The comeback was necessary after New York controlled the first two games of the match. The Violets trailed for much of game one, but made a late push to claim the win. Trailing 23-21 after a Juniata kill, New York scored four-straight points to claim a 25-23 edge. Wintermeyer had three kills during the run and the Violets would not trail from there as Wintermeyer and Patrick Fenton combined to close the game with a double block. Game two was all NYU as the visitors rolled to a 15-10 lead on a solo block from Fenton. The Eagles did not get closer than three points the rest of the way, as a late Macnair Sillick kill helped close out the win.

The Eagles then swung momentum in its favor in game three as the Eagles brought DeHaven and defensive specialist Casey Dale (Cochranton/Cochranton) off the bench. The pair helped spark the team as Juniata trailed only briefly in the game. Ocasio produced five kills down the stretch in the game to help extend the contest.

Ocasio knocked out his 32 kills while adding a team-high six blocks for Juniata. Dehaven contributed 19 kills in just three games for Juniata while Fritz added 16 kills. Werle passed out 61 assists for the Blue and Gold and helped the team hit .293 in the contest. Dale brought up 11 digs for Juniata on the match and Withum matched Ocasio with six blocks. Fritz and Barndt joined Ocasio on the All-Tournament Team.

Wintermeyer and Chris Schmidt each had 16 kills for the Violets as both claimed All-Tournament Team recognition. Sillick also earned All-Tournament honors as he knocked out 15 kills. Fenton and Schmidt both had five blocks while David Tener brought up nine digs. Marc Horowitz passed out 46 assists and helped New York hit .295 on the match.

The 2006 Molten Championship will be held April 7-8 at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, N.J.

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