1998 Molten Division III Men's Volleyball Championship
Juniata men’s volleyball squad wins national title; Eagles down LaVerne, 3-1, in Molten title match
April 25, 1998
By Bub Parker, Juniata Sports Information Director
SPRINGFIELD, Mass. – On Saturday night, the Juniata College men’s volleyball team (13-16) put an exclamation point on a strong 1998 season by defeating LaVerne (Calif.) in the title match of the Molten Division III Championship, 15-13, 8-15, 15-9, 15-13, to claim the College’s first-ever team national championship in any sport. The Eagles were seeded first in the four-team field, while LaVerne was seeded third entering the weekend of play.
“I am very pleased and happy for this group,” said head coach Ryan Patton. “ We started the year 4-14 and we just kept trying to tell the team that we were on the right path and that things were going to be fine. This weekend, all of the close losses that we had were worth it. We played hard all year and learned from the tough setbacks. As a result, we were able to build a lot of character and we came into this weekend with something to prove and we did it.”
The Eagles were out to prove things from the start of the championship match and did so by running out to a 9-2 lead. The Leopards came back to tie it at 13-13 by scoring 11 of the next 15 points in the match, but Juniata was able to side out and tally two points to jump out to a 1-0 lead.
“Tim Shawaryn played well for us in first game and he kind of set the tone for the evening for us,” said Patton.
In the second tilt, LaVerne picked up the tempo and posted a .543 hitting mark. The Leopards broke an 8-8 tie by tallying seven consecutive points. Juniata struggled siding out during a couple of rotations and as a result, LaVerne was able to tie the match at a game apiece.
“I could see a look of panic and stress on our team during the second game, so in between the second and third games I just told them all to smile and relax,” said Patton.
“The coaching method worked as a “relaxed” Eagle squad went onto the court in the third contest and broke open a 4-4 tie and cruised comfortably to a 15-9 advantage and within one game of the school’s first-ever team national championship.
In the fourth and final outing, Juniata had to pull off a comeback. The Eagles trailed, 11-5, before Patton substituted sophomore outside hitter Jason Moore (Spencerport, N.Y./Spencerport) into the match for the first time. He served five straight points for the blue and gold high-netters and helped Juniata go up, 13-11. LaVerne tied the game at 13, but a big kill from sophomore outside hitter Rod Kirby (Pittsburgh, Pa./Penn Hills) got the Eagles to 14 points and then a hitting error by the Leopards sealed the match for Juniata.