(Posted April 8, 2006)

HOBOKEN, N.J. ? The Juniata College men?s volleyball team continued its reign atop the Division III men?s volleyball world as the Eagles earned their third-consecutive Molten Division III Men?s Invitational Volleyball Championship title with a 3-0 victory over the University of California at Santa Cruz Saturday afternoon in Hoboken, N.J. Juniata, now 12-11 after the win, becomes just the second team in the 10-year history of the Molten Championship to claim three-consecutive titles. UC Santa Cruz, which was making its first appearance in the Molten Championship match, fell to 7-10 with the loss.

Jeremy Barndt (Souderton/Souderton) was selected as the Tournament Most Valuable player as he produced seven kills with no attack errors, two aces and three blocks in the championship match, while hitting .636. He helped Juniata earn the win by game scores of 30-18, 30-24 and 30-22. Nate Ocasio (Northeastern/Manchester) pounded out a match-high 13 kills while Matt Fritz (John Carroll/Churchville, Md.) finished with 12 kills as both players claimed All-Tournament Team honors. Tyler Madden and Matt Reynolds of UC Santa Cruz were both All-Tournament Team selection, while Chris Bock and Scott Stoner both were named to the team from host Stevens Institute of Technology. Stevens defeated Rivier College 3-0 in the third-place match earlier in the day.

The victory marked Juniata?s 25th-consecutive win over Division III opponents, a run that stretches back into the 2004 season.

Juniata got another efficient hitting attack in the match as the Eagles finished with a .330 team hitting percentage, and also rode a solid service game to the win. Juniata finished with nine serve aces in the contest, its highest total of the season in a three-game match.

The Eagles got off to an extremely quick start in game one, taking control with a double block from Barndt (Souderton/Souderton) and Glenn DeHaven (Walt Whitman/South Huntington, N.Y.) that made the score 9-3. UC Santa Cruz would cut the lead down to four on two occasions, but each time Juniata was able to halt the run. Juniata then closed the game on a 10-5 run as Fritz tossed in a pair of aces to finish the game.

In game two it was UC Santa Cruz that got started quickly as the second-seed jumped to a 13-9 lead on a kill from Madden. The Eagles would whittle away at the advantage, but several more Madden kills were able to keep Juniata at-bay. Juniata finally tied the score at 20 on a Fritz kill, and then got a pair of Ocasio finishes as part of a 7-0 run that put the Eagles on top 25-20. Two more Fritz kills along with finishes from Ocasio and Cordt Withum (Penn Manor/Holtwood) helped the Eagles close out the 30-24 win.

After the comeback win in game two, the Eagles again surged to a big lead in game three, jumping in front 15-7 on a Matt Werle (Meadville/Meadville) kill. UC Santa Cruz inched back within six points on a Matt McDaniel kill, only to have another pair of aces from Fritz help push the lead back to nine. Consecutive aces from Barndt later in the game extended the lead to 11 and despite a late kill from McDaniel and an ace from Chris Konish, Juniata held on to claim its third-straight Molten Championship.

Barndt, Ocasio and Fritz all hit .367 or better in the match to lead Juniata?s offense. Fritz also had a team-best four aces. Barndt added seven finishes along with three blocks and two aces. Werle directed Juniata?s offense with 33 assists while adding three aces of his own and a team-high five blocks. DeHaven and Casey Dale (Cochranton/Cochranton) each produced 10 digs for Juniata, while Withum matched Werle?s total with five blocks of his own.

Madden and Bryan Shires each had a team-high eight kills for UC Santa Cruz, while Jesse Garber and Brice Dahlmeier both had six. Reynolds passed out 33 assists for the Banana Slugs in the match. Shires and Eric Reid each had 11 digs defensively for the team while Garber led the team with three blocks.

With the victory, Juniata not only becomes the second program to win three-consecutive Molten Division III Titles, the Eagles are now just one of two teams to have claimed the title four times. The Eagles earned the Molten Championship in 1998 to go with its titles in 2003, 2004 and this season.

Juniata now has two matches remaining in the regular season before it will begin another round of postseason play with the EIVA Championship Tournament. The Eagles will host Mercyhurst College on Thursday night.


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