Springfield, Mass. - March 27, 2009 - The top-ranked Springfield College men's volleyball team dropped a four-game battle to rival Juniata College in a EIVA Tait Conference match on Friday evening in Blake Arena.
With the win, the Pride fall to 12-7, 4-5 in league action while the Eagles improve to 11-7, 5-4. It marked the first time that Springfield has lost to a Division III institution in men's volleyball at home since March 24, 2007 when the Eagles defeated the Pride in five.
The win over Springfield allowed the second-ranked Eagles to clinch the EIVA berth in the 2009 Molten Invitational, which will take place on April 17-18 at Ramapo College in Mahwah, N.J.
Mark Ribeiro led the Pride with 18 kills and eight digs, while AJ Nally returned to the lineup to post 13 kills, seven digs, and six blocks. Ryan Fredrickson registered 10 kills and 15 digs and Cal Palumbo recorded nine kills and six blocks. Brandon Waas was nothing short of sensational on defense as the senior libero tallied 19 digs.
For the visitors, Zach Wanner finished with a match-high 24 kills and added nine digs as he was one of four Eagles to register double-figure kills. Dan Powers added 15 kills, hitting .480, while fellow middle hitter Evan Halteman chipped in with 13 kills, hitting .391. Chris Vrooman notched 14 kills as well for Juniata as Matt Werle directed the offense with 64 assist to go along with 11 digs and six blocks. Anthony Damiano was a standout on defense as he tallied a match-high 20 digs.
In the opening set, both teams struggled to find a rhythm as there were a combined eight service errors in the opening 11 points. Springfield finally managed to gain control as a Fredrickson kill gave the Pride a four-point advantage at 17-13. The Eagles chipped away at the lead, getting within one, after a Springfield service error made it 27-26. However, the Eagles responded with a service error of their own and a Nally solo block gave the home squad a three-point cushion at 29-26. Juniata used a Halteman kill and a double block from Halteman and Werle to get within one, but Palumbo blasted a kill for the 30-28 win.
The epic second game featured 19 ties leading up to Juniata evening the match after taking the frame 41-39. It seemed as though Juniata would ease to victory as it held at 25-21 lead after a Nally attack error. The home squad would not go away quietly as it battled back to even the game at 28 after a Sipe kill, setting up the extra session. Both teams fought off several set points until the Eagles used kills from Vrooman and Wanner to take the set.
The Eagles carried the momentum into the third, racing out to a 4-1 lead. The Pride regained its composure, settling back in a seven-all after a Juniata service error. Springfield went on to take a 20-17 lead after a Palumbo service ace forced a Juniata timeout. Out of the timeout, the Eagles went on a 6-2 run to regain a 23-22 lead. A Werle attack error gave the Pride the lead back at 27-26, only to have the Eagles rattle off three of the game's final four points to take a 2-1 lead. Once again, the Eagles middles came through as Halteman and Powers picked up the final two kills for JC.
It appeared as though the Pride had run out of gas in the fourth as it fell behind 17-11 after a Vrooman service ace. In impressive fashion though, Springfield strung together a terrific comeback, getting within one at 22-21 after Nally bounced an overpass. However, the Juniata block was too strong down the stretch as it back-to-back blocks from the duo of Halteman and Werle gave the visitors a 25-21 advantage. The Eagles closed out the match off a Wanner kill as it took the set 30-25.
Springfield returns to action on Saturday evening as it takes on St. Francis in a conference match at 7:00 pm.