HUNTINGDON, Pa. -- April 13, 2007 -- The Juniata College men's volleyball team earned itself a chance to make history and claim a fourth-consecutive Molten Division III Men's Volleyball Invitational Championship as the second-seed Eagles topped third-seed Springfield 3-1 in a Molten semifinal Friday night. Juniata will face Carthage College in the championship match on Saturday night.
Nate Ocasio led four Juniata players in double figures with 21 kills as Juniata (15-8) earned a spot in the final by game scores of 30-25, 30-28, 25-30 and 30-26. Springfield (18-9) got 19 kills from Ryan Frederickson and outblocked Juniata on the night but could not come away with the win.
Ocasio had 21 kills with a .342 hitting percentage as Juniata hit .343 as a team in the match. Jeremy Barndt notched 16 finishes and hit .682 for Juniata. Chris Gass finished with 14 kills and a team-high six blocks, while Matt Fritz was also in double figures with 11 kills. Glenn DeHaven had nine finishes and eight digs, while Steve Yeager paced Juniata with 11 digs. Matt Werle dished out 11 assists for Juniata while contributing five digs and four blocks.
Frederickson carried the load for Springfield with 19 kills and a .389 hitting percentage. Javier Rosario finished with 11 kills while AJ Nally knocked out 10 kills. Eric Shoemaker helped the Pride hit .308 as a team by passing out 49 assists. Brandon Waas was tops on the team with 10 digs while Andy Sipe had nine kills to go with a match-high eight blocks.
The hosts came out hot in game one as a Fritz finishes put the Eagles up 14-10 in the early going. An ace from Nally and a kill from Frederickson cut the deficit to one at 15-14. Ocasio answered with a kill and then DeHaven and Barndt combined on a block followed by a Fritz ace to push the lead back to four. Springfield got with two at 20-18 after a block from Sipe but Juniata pulled away down the stretch and sealed the game with a Gass kill.
Springfield seemed poised to insure at least a fourth game as the Pride roared out of the gates in game two. An early double block from Sipe and Shoemaker helped the Pride build a 9-2 advantage. Juniata slowly inched back into the game, and pulled within one at 18-17 on a block from DeHaven and Barndt. The teams traded side outs twice before an Ocasio kill and a triple block from the Eagles gave Juniata its first lead at 21-20. The game was tied three more times before consecutive kills from Ocasio gave Juniata a 27-24 lead and the Eagles held on despite a pair of late Frederickson kills to earn the win.
The Pride followed a similar plan in game three, but this time they held on to extend the match to a fourth game. A double block from Dave Smietana and Shoemaker, followed by consecutive kills from Frederickson and Smietana helped the Pride move in front 11-5. It was still a seven-point edge after a Sipe kill gave Springfield a 20-13 edge. The Eagles then mounted another comeback eventually pulling within five at 25-20 on an Ocasio kill. The Eagles inched within three after a double block from Werle and Gass and a Barndt finish, but Springfield got a Sipe and Shoemaker block to stop the run and then a kill from Frederickson to close the game.
Game four was tight throughout as neither team enjoyed big leads. Juniata inched in front by a 13-9 score after a block from Gass and Ocasio, but Springfield eventually came back to take the lead 19-18 on a Nally finish. Juniata answered by scoring five of the next six points to take a 23-20 lead and Springfield got no closer than two the rest of the way.
Juniata and Carthage did not face each other this season. The only previous matchup between the two teams came in the 2005 Molten Division III Men's Invitational Volleyball Championship final, which was won by Juniata. Springfield will face Stevens Institute of Technology in the consolation match on Saturday.
Molten U.S.A., Inc. is the "Official Volleyball of the Molten Division III Men's Invitational Volleyball Championship," as well as the "Official ball of the AVCA." Sports Imports is the "Official Net System Supplier of the Molten Division III Men's Invitational Volleyball Championship." Mizuno USA is the "Official Apparel & Shoe Sponsor of the Division III Men's Invitational Volleyball Championship."