(Posted January 19, 2004)

Huntingdon, PA?For as long as the Juniata College men?s volleyball team has been in existence, it has consistently been one of the top programs at the Division III level. But following a season in which the Eagles earned the Eastern Intercollegiate Volleyball Association (EIVA) Division III title, and finished second in the Molten Division III Championship, second-year Head Coach Ken Shibuya believes Juniata should be setting its sights higher.

?Our players this season have a great belief and confidence in themselves,? Shibuya explained. ?Because of that, and our talent level, we don?t want to settle for just being one of the top Division III men?s programs. We?re trying to create the mindset that we can be on the same level as some of the best East Coast Division I programs.?

Shibuya?s faith in his team comes from having a solid returning cast that he believes gained valuable experience from last season?s success when Juniata finished 17-9 overall and lost just one Division III match all season. The Eagles have also added a number of talented freshmen to the fold who should help Juniata achieve that goal of battling top-level competition.

?We?re trying to not limit ourselves,? Shibuya explained. ?We are committed to the idea of being as good as or better than just about everyone we play. We have top players who believe they are top players, and we have some exciting newcomers including an outstanding assistant coach.?

Those returning players are led by a pair of talented hitters, seniors Ryan Genova (Antietam/Reading) and Kenny Eiser (Central Bucks West/Doylestown). Genova earned second-team All-EIVA recognition as a junior, while Eiser was selected as a second-team All-EIVA Division III pick. Shibuya is also looking for big things from junior setter Ricky Ziegler (Northeastern/Manchester) who will have the starting setter spot all to him self after sharing time at that position last season.

Shibuya also anticipates a pair of sophomores, libero Tim Cole (Pennsbury/Yardley) and middle Cordt Withum (Penn Manor/Holtwood) to come into their own as major contributors this season.

?Ryan has greatly improved his overall game, and Kenny is an incredibly potent quick attacker,? Shibuya explained. ?I think Ricky has a chance to be a special player. He could be a great, tall setter, which is hard to find at any level. Cordt and Tim have both shown great commitment and improvement. I think both of them will be key parts of our success.?
Among the factors that lead Shibuya to believe the Eagles can compete with the top teams in the East is an increase in the team?s size. Juniata added four freshman who are 6-4 or taller, and now have nine players on the roster who are taller than 6-4.
?We are no longer a small team, we have some real nice size now,? Shibuya stated. ?Also I think I?m more familiar with our opponents this season, which should be a benefit to the team.?

Juniata returns nine players who saw playing time a season ago, and with that nucleus intact along with the team?s strong recruiting class, the potential is there for the squad to reach the goals they have set.

?We want our guys to believe that we can win the EIVA and advance to the NCAA Final Four,? Shibuya said. ?The Molten Championship will still be a focus for us, and with our position in the world of Division III athletics there is no doubt we want to earn that title. But we have the talent to look at higher goals, it?s just a matter of the team believing they can achieve those things.?

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