(Posted November 21, 2008)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Juniata College's hopes of collecting its third national championship in women's volleyball ended Friday evening with a 3-2 loss to the University of La Verne (Calif.), in the national semifinals of the NCAA Division III Women's Volleyball Championships in Bloomington, Ill.

Set scores were 20-25, 25-18, 13-25, 25-22, and 17-15.

La Verne (27-2) advances to Saturday's national championship, and will face Emory University - victors of the other semifinal over Ohio Northern University by an identical 3-2 score.

"We played a good volleyball match, and as with any match that's tight its going to come down to a few inches either way," said Juniata head coach Larry Bock. "We were on the short end tonight, and though it hurts it is certainly not because of a lack of effort. We played a team that was a little bit better than us tonight."

Juniata (35-5) was paced by senior Amber Thomas (Ephrata, Pa./Conestoga Valley) who tallied 19 kills while hitting .250 for the match. Fellow senior Erin Albert (Philipsburg, Pa./Philipsburg-Osceola) chipped in with 13 kills on 28 swings, and Paige Johnston (Lancaster, Pa./Hempfield) had eight kills.

Megan Sollenberger (Mechanicsburg, Pa./Cumberland Valley) had 22 digs, leading four Juniata players with double-digit dig totals. Senior setter Beth Kozak (Huntingdon, Pa./Huntingdon Area) set 32 assists for the Eagles, while sophomore Steph Strauss (Penn Hills, Pa./Penn Hills) had 14 assists. Michelle Morchesky (Greensburg, Pa./Hempfield) and Kristin Noetzel (Closter, N.J./Northern Valley Regional) each had five total blocks, out of a Juniata tally of 11.0 team blocks.

The Eagles hit .184 for the match, slightly better than La Verne's .181 attack percentage.

The Eagles had a chance to seal the match in the fourth set. Juniata built an 18-14 lead after a side out kill by Johnston. That point capped a 6-2 run by Juniata that broke open a 12-12 tie, with Johnston logging a pair of kills during the stretch with Thomas and Albert adding one each.

A Juniata service error cut the lead to 18-15, and began a four-point La Verne run to knot the game at 18-all. After trading side out points, the Leopards got back-to-back kills from Crista Jones to take a 22-19 lead. La Verne managed to stay at least one point ahead of Juniata the rest of the way, and took game four with a Jones service ace on set point.

Game five was neck-and-neck all the way to 15-15, with the lead for either team exceeding two points only once at 9-6 for La Verne. The Leopards' Brianna Gonzalez put down a kill on Thomas' serve to put La Verne at game point, 16-15; a Juniata attack error off Gonzalez's subsequent serve sealed the win for La Verne.

"We had a few places to put the game away in the fourth or fifth game, when we had control," said Bock. "Our errors were aggressive errors, and we can't ask anything more of a team than to attack and be aggressive like that."

Juniata will travel home from Bloomington on Saturday, arriving in Huntingdon at approximately 8:00 p.m.


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