(Posted February 27, 2009)

HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- Anytime Springfield College and Juniata College meet on the volleyball court, it's going to be a battle - more so when the number one ranking in Division III is on the line.

That's exactly what unfolded as the top-ranked Pride eventually downed the second-ranked Eagles, 3-2, in a see-saw struggle on Saturday night at the Kennedy Sports + Recreation Center. Set scores for Springfield were 31-29, 30-32, 30-27, 17-30, 15-9.

Junior Zach Wanner (Lancaster, Pa./Hempfield) led Juniata (7-4, 4-3 EIVA Tait) with 20 kills on 50 swings for a .240 attack percentage, to go with four total blocks on the night. Senior Dan Powers (Lancaster, Pa./Manheim Township) logged 15 kills on 24 swings, and sophomore Dan Follett (Cranberry Township, Pa./Seneca Valley) chipped in with 13 kills and nine digs.

Senior setter Matt Werle (Meadville, Pa./Meadville) recorded 53 assists during the match, putting him over the 4,000-career assist mark - third-most in Juniata history, and most assists in the rally scoring-era.

Springfield (8-6, 2-4 EIVA Tait) had four players with double-digit kill totals, led by senior Mark Ribeiro with 15 on 38 swings, along with a team-high 12 digs. Sophomore Cal Palumbo logged 13 kills on 19 swings for a .632 hitting percentage, and logged four total blocks. Senior Ryan Frederickson and junior AJ Nally had 12 and 11 kills respectively.

Juniata outhit Springfield for the match, .275 to .214, but the Eagles handed 27 points to the Pride on service errors alone.

The Eagles looked like they might make short work of the Pride in the early-going of set one, as Juniata raced out to a 7-2 lead which later widened to 13-7. Juniata still had a substantial lead in the first set at 19-14, following a Ribeiro service error and a Wanner service ace, but Springfield rattled off five straight points to knot the set at 19-19.

Juniata responded with five straight points of its own, including two on back-to-back kills by Wanner and Chris Vrooman (Baden, Pa./Ambridge Area), but a Vrooman service error cut short the run at 24-20. That launched a 7-3 run by the Pride, leaving the set deadlocked at 27-27, and six points later Springfield claimed the set following a bad set by Wanner and a Nally kill.

The Eagles had a 19-14 lead in set two, but another Pride comeback forced the set into extra-points before Juniata would claim the win. Springfield was on set-point at 29-28, but a Powers kill tied things up at 29-29. A Nally attack error and Wanner block gave Juniata a one-point lead, but a Palumbo kill moved the score to 30-30. Consecutive kills by Wanner and junior Evan Halteman (Perkiomenville, Pa./Christopher Dock) allowed Juniata to clinch the set.

The third set was sheer attrition, with neither team able to attack with any consistency. Juniata hit just .056 for the set, while Springfield checked in with a .121 attack percentage. A four-point run by the Pride allowed Springfield to take an 18-12 lead, with Juniata eventually cutting the margin to 23-21 with a Follett kill and back-to-back blocks by the Eagles. However Springfield managed to stay ahead of Juniata the rest of the way, eventually ending the set on a Frederickson kill.

Juniata dominated Springfield in set four, jumping out to a 6-1 lead with a pair of kills by Follett. With their lead at 18-11, the Eagles rattled off five straight points of Wanner's serve, including a pair of service aces, to take command of the set. A Powers kill on 29-17 ended the set, forcing the decisive fifth frame.

Springfield took a 6-3 lead in the final set, but Juniata knotted the score at 6-6 with back-to-back kills by Wanner and Craig Harvey (Beverly, Mass./St. Johns Prep), and an attack error by Ribeiro. A pair of side out kills moved the score along to 7-7, but a Halteman attack error led Springfield take an 8-7 lead.

The Pride won the next three points, including two on service aces by Ribeiro, before a Wanner kill ended the run and left Springfield with an 11-8 lead. A Halteman service error and Werle setting error stretched Springfield's lead to 13-8, but a side out service error by Springfield's Andy Sipe cut the lead to 13-9. Consecutive kills by Nally ended the set, giving Springfield the match.

Juniata returns to action Saturday afternoon, when 10th-ranked New York University visits Juniata College. Springfield continues its two-match EIVA Tait Division road trip with a match at Princeton University.


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