(Posted December 1, 2023)

Image via Tony Leon, Action West Photography

Image via Tony Leon, Action West Photography

CLAREMONT, Calif.- The Juniata women's volleyball team is returning to the NCAA National Championship following a 3-0 (25-15, 25-19, 25-20) victory over New York University Thursday evening in the Final Four.

A balanced attack from the pins had the Eagle offense running smoothly all match, as Lily Podolan, Audrey Muth, and Kennedy Christy all had strong days. Muth had a match-high 14 kills while hitting .355, Podolan totaled 12 (.421) to go with four digs and a block assist, while Christy amassed 11 kills (.360) along with two aces, five digs, and a solo block. Mackenzie Coley totaled seven kills (.462) with a block assist, while Olivia Foley had 40 assists, a kill, and eight digs.

Podolan knocked the ball off the block for the first point of the match to get the JC on the board; the Eagles were off. With the score at 9-6, Christy dropped a nifty roll kill that dropped right over the block and in front of the NYU player, trying to cover the middle of the floor. Christy followed that up by crushing a ball down the line to increase the lead to five, and NYU called timeout. The pause did not deter Mia Schubert; she immediately served up an ace. NYU took the next point, but kills from Foley and Coley with a Christy ace made it 15-7. The Violets called another timeout, but the Eagles would not be denied as they pushed their advantage to as many as ten and eventually took set one 25-15 on a Podolan cross-court kill. JC hit .433 in the set and held NYU to .107. 

Kiona Sky Rousset-Hernandez started set two with an ace, NYU committed an attack error, and Coley and Podolan walloped back-to-back kills to put JC up 4-0 early. NYU didn't fold and hung around for a while as they stayed within a point for several points. At 10-9, Muth went off the block twice in a row to increase the Eagle lead to three, 12-9. Juniata kept the Violets at bay, but NYU took three straight points late to get back within three, 20-17, and JC called timeout. The Eagles took five of the final seven points to take set two, as Sydney Ohl got an ace to give Juniata set point, and a Violet attack error ended the set 25-19. 

The third set saw the Eagles take control with the score at 11-10. Podolan got a kill, Christy got a solo block, Christy tallied another kill following a Violet timeout, and Schubert bopped another ace to put the Eagles ahead by five. NYU closed within three, 17-14, and JC called timeout. The teams traded points as Muth added another kill before she added a second, tapping a loose ball near the net where no Violet defender could get to it, and Podolan smashed a kill of her own to the floor to make it 20-15. NYU called for time, another Muth kill got things going, and Ohl added another ace. The Violets took four of the net six points, with Christy and Podolan getting Juniata to match point. Christy sent the Eagles to the National Championship with another tight kill that dropped on the opposite side near the net. 

The win sends the Eagles back to the National Championship for the second straight year and the 10th overall for the program. Juniata is 34-0 and riding a 61-game winning streak.

They will play Hope College on Saturday, December 2 at 7 p.m. EST.

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