Juniata men’s volleyball dethrones the Royals with a 3-2 triumph
FULLERTON, Calif. – Juniata men's volleyball opened its season against Hope International University on its four-day California trip and took away a 3-2 win over the Royals in Darling Pavilion Wednesday night.
Set scores for the Hope International match were 20-25, 25-18, 25-20, 17-25, 15-12.
No. 5 Juniata (1-0) trailed the entire first set and couldn't seem to catch up as the squad worked out its season-opening jitters. Despite the first set loss, the Eagles and Royals both posted 12 kills and Juniata walked away with a .348 hitting percentage, significantly better than Hope's (0-1) .269 swing percentage.
It took the squad until about the half way point in the second set to really find its pace, but once it did the second set was all blue and gold. Prior to the Eagles taking the lead for good with a senior Ben Wolff (Meadville, Pa./Meadville) kill assisted by senior John Almquist (York, Pa./Central York) to put Juniata up 14-13, the score was tied eight times. However, the Wolff kill proved to be the difference maker, and the Eagles went on to tack up an Almquist service ace, a pair of freshman Paul Kuhn (York, Pa./Central York) kills and single Wolff and sophomore Ross Madden (Richmond, Va./Deep Run) terminations.
Juniata was able to carry that momentum gained in the second set into the third, but again had to come from behind to get the set win. The third set was a dog-fight that saw Juniata trailing until the Eagles fought to equalize at 13 apiece with a Madden kill assisted by freshman Eric McCarthy (Villa Park, Ill./Willowbrook).
The Eagles lost the lead and fought to tie the set four more times until the score was tied at 20 apiece. From there the Eagles took control of the set and a Royals attack and service error, an Almquist service ace, and a team block by Wolff and sophomore Paul Ejups (Bay Shore, N.Y./West Islip) gave Juniata a 24-20 advantage. Ejups and Almquist sealed the set win for the Eagles with a block just one play later.
After a Royals rally in the fourth set, Juniata went to work to clinch the match in the fifth and final set. Again coming from behind, Juniata battled until it found itself in the driver's seat with the score tied at four. The Eagles kept their lead throughout the rest of the contest and grabbed its final point off a Wolff kill.
Kuhn finished his first collegiate match with a team high 14 kills on 32 attacks for a .312 hitting percentage. Not far behind was Madden, who swung at a .357 clip, with 13 kills on 28 swings. Wolff finished the night without recording a single error in his 18 attacks with 11 resulting in a termination for an impressive match high .611 attack percentage. Combined, Juniata swung for a .333 hitting percentage, while Hope managed a .265 attack percentage. Additionally, the Eagles earned 12.0 team blocks in the match, that included on solo block from Almquist and Kuhn, and three block assists each from Almquist, Kuhn, Ejups, and Madden. Freshman Joe Bortak (Jeannette, Pa./Penn Trafford) chalked-up six block assists in his collegiate debut against the Royals.
Almquist posted a double-double performance with a team high 43 assists and 15 digs while also contributing two service aces.
Juniata continues play in California against Stanford University on Friday, Jan. 13. The match is scheduled to begin at 7:00 p.m. Pacific Standard Time.