(Posted July 7, 2009)

By Pete Lefresne, Juniata Sports Information Director

With the Honorable Mentions for my favorite 10 Juniata athletic moments of 2008-09 out of the way, I'll go to number 10 on the list... and work down to number 6.

Again, these are my personal favorites, nothing more. There was no voting and no committee in their selection - and the purchase of the new dartboard and a set of darts was completely coincidental. After the top five are unveiled on Thursday, and I'll let all of you know how to offer your thoughts and opinions on the best 10 moments in Juniata athletics from this past season.

No. 10 - Women's soccer downs Gettysburg, 2-0, for first win over regionally ranked opponent
After a pair of lopsided wins over Elmira and Keystone, followed by a close yet convincing win over St. Vincent, Juniata was 3-0 heading into its first serious test of the season - a matchup with Gettysburg College, ranked 10th in the Middle Atlantic Region.

The Eagles passed that test with flying colors, upending the Bullets 2-0 on September 13 in Huntingdon for the program's first win over a regionally ranked opponent.

Shannon Pierce tallied the game winner in the 60th minute, while Elizabeth Van Blarcom tacked on an insurance goal in the final minute of play.

The win over Gettysburg, coupled with a 3-1 win over Lycoming College later that week, allowed Juniata to make its first appearance in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) regional rankings. The victory over the Bullets was the first of three wins over regionally ranked foes for the Eagles in 2008. The Eagles would upend Moravian, 1-0, in late September with the Greyhounds listed among regionally ranked teams, and Juniata would dispose of Dickinson College in early October, 1-0 in overtime, for the Eagles' third such win of the season. The Red Devils were ranked 10th in the Middle Atlantic Region at the time.

No. 9 - Softball posts 2-0 win over Catholic in Landmark tournament for record-setting 24th win
The circumstances heading into this contest were far from ideal.

The previous day, third-seeded Juniata waited out a lengthy rain delay before taking the field against second-seeded Susquehanna for the teams' Landmark Conference tournament opener. The Eagles jumped all over the Crusaders early to take a 2-0 lead in the first inning, before umpires and tournament officials deemed the field unplayable - canceling the game, wiping out Juniata's early inning momentum against their archrivals, and forcing the two teams to start from scratch on Saturday, May 2.

In Saturday's restart, Juniata struggled to find the hitting groove from the previous day and fell to Susquehanna, 5-1. The embittered Eagles were relegated to an elimination bracket game later that afternoon against Catholic.

However Juniata freshman pitcher Pam Heinrichs kept the Cardinals off-balance for seven innings, scattering four hits while leading the Eagles to a 2-0 victory over Catholic for the program's first post-season win. On the base paths, the Eagles took advantage of their opportunities and some Catholic miscues, with Sarah Eckard and Jackie Morley scoring single runs in the third and fourth innings respectively.

The win was Juniata's 24th of the season, eclipsing the previous program high of 21 victories set in 2008. Unfortunately, it was the final win of the season as the Eagles were eliminated by Susquehanna in the very next game.

I've gotten to know this team pretty well, since the softball upperclassmen began what I have jokingly termed their "occupation" of the Sports Information Office over the past two years (three softball players have worked for me as student-assistants during that span, with another slated to intern in the office this fall). I know this win was particularly sweet for them, on the heels of their disappointment earlier in the day against Susquehanna.

Hats off to you, ladies, for a terrific season.

No. 8 - Men's basketball upends Moravian, 77-76
Juniata stood 3-16 overall, 1-7 Landmark, halfway through the first weekend of the Eagles' second trip through the Landmark Conference loop. The Eagles had dropped a 74-60 loss to Scranton the previous night, shooting just 37% from the field while the visiting Royals had fired at a 53% clip.

The next afternoon, January 31, Juniata shot 49% from the floor and rallied from a halftime deficit to post a 77-76 win over Moravian College, the Eagles second win of the season over the Greyhounds. Jeff Berkey broke a 74-74 tie with his layup with 51 seconds remaining in the game, and hit the first of two free throws with nine ticks on the clock to give the Eagles a 77-74 advantage.

Moravian pulled to within one point of Juniata on Charlie Rigoglioso's layup with three seconds showing, but could get no closer.

The win over Moravian seemed to complete a young Juniata team's coalescence, and launched the Eagles onto a four-game winning streak. Juniata subsequently beat Catholic, Goucher, and Drew in overtime, and narrowly lost in overtime to Merchant Marine. The Eagles remained in the hunt for a third straight post-season berth until the final game of the season.

No. 7 - Field hockey repeats as Landmark champions with 2-1 OT win over Catholic
After winning the inaugural title in 2007, odds of Juniata field hockey repeating as Landmark champs in 2008 seemed pretty long after the Eagles opened the year with a 1-6 record.

Juniata began to turn the corner in late September, and things finally began clicking in early October with a 2-1 penalty stroke win over Alvernia University. After that point, the Eagles won four of their next six contests, including a Landmark tournament semifinal win over Susquehanna.

That set up a rematch of the 2007 title match, a meeting with Catholic on November 8 at Cardinal Stadium in Washington.

Juniata and Catholic were deadlocked at 1-1 after the first half, and the second half and the first overtime period did nothing to resolve the matter.

Finally, with 5:18 showing in the second overtime, Paula Price finished a magnificent run up the center of the field, beating Catholic goalie Marian Cassilly to clinch the win.

No. 6 - Football defeats McDaniel College, 12-10, for first Centennial Conference win
Juniata's offense used a balanced attack while the defense kept McDaniel College bottled up most of the afternoon, as the Eagles posted their first win as members of the Centennial Conference with a 12-10 win over the Green Terror on October 4 at Knox Stadium.

The backfield tandem of Kyle McKechnie and Derek Kramer combined for 127 rushing yards, while Jay Leonard passed for 186 yards and rushed for 27 more to lead Juniata to the win. Rookie kicker Andrew Masullo hit a pair of 26-yard field goals, and Leonard's one-yard TD carry late in the third quarter proved to be difference maker.

Defensively, the Eagles held the Green Terror to just 192 yards of total offense, with 70 yards of that total coming on one play.

Juniata football would have a more personal encounter with an ex-Green Terror receiver at season's end, as former Western Maryland standout Carmen Felus took over as the Eagles' new head football coach. That should add an extra element to this season's Juniata-McDaniel matchup, scheduled for October 3 in Westminster, Md.

That covers numbers 10 through six on the list. Check back on Thursday for the top five.


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