ARLINGTON, Va.- In the most fitting fashion, the 2017 Continental Volleyball Conference championship match went to five sets for the first time ever. To make it even more epic, it took more than 15 points to decide a champion. In the end, the Juniata men's volleyball team came out on top as the Eagles recovered from a 2-1 deficit to win 3-2 and claim the CVC title.
Juniata wins its third CVC crown overall and first since 2014. The team also receives the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
Three Eagles reached double figures in kills led by tournament Most Valuable Player Kyle Seeley's (Ellicott City, Md./Howard) 18. Seeley hit a team-best .389 and also picked up a team-high six block assists.
Juniata trailed 4-2 early in the first set but recovered to go ahead 13-9. EMU rallied with five straight points to go up 14-13. The two teams traded points and with the set tied at 16-16, JC ripped off a 7-0 run to leap forward 23-16. The Eagles were one away from match point at 24-17 but had to withstand an EMU rally before winning on a Royal service error 25-22.
Eastern Mennonite carried its late momentum into the second frame as it got out to 6-0 lead. The Eagles tried to fight their way back but the Royals stayed ahead and their lead grew to as much as 22-12 before winning 25-17 to even the match at one set each.
Much like the second set, the third set saw EMU jump on JC early with a big 11-1 lead. Juniata got to within six at 14-8 and 21-15 but Eastern Mennonite was too much as it scored the last four points of the frame to claim a 25-15 win and go up 2-1.
EMU tallied the first two points in set four but the Eagles responded with a 10-4 run to go up 10-6. JC stayed ahead of the Royals throughout. After going ahead 20-14, the Eagle lead never dipped below five points as Juniata was able to hold off the Royals with a 25-19 win to force a deciding fifth set.
The fifth set was a battle back and forth as neither team could establish a significant run. Eastern Mennonite was able to establish a lead of three points at 14-11. At match point, Mahlon Bender's (Harrisburg, Pa./Central Dauphin) kill was one of three straight points JC was able to tally to tie the set at 14-14. Both teams traded off points with EMU at match point three times. At 17-17, an attack error by the Royals' William Ragland with a block by Seeley and Michael Young (Westlake Village, Calif./Westlake Village) gave JC an 18-17 edge. Once again the teams traded points off and Juniata was at its fourth match point. This time the set would not go on as a bad set by EMU's Christian Taylor failed to go over and the Eagles erupted in celebration as they won 22-20.
Juniata won despite hitting only hitting .106 on the night. EMU was not much better with a .110 hitting percentage.
Matt Vasinko (Loyalhanna, Pa./Derry Area) added 12 kills for the Eagles to go along with eight digs and three solo blocks. Quinn Peterson (Las Vegas, Nev./Shadow Ridge) had a double-double with 10 kills and 12 digs. Young put up 48 assists, eight digs, and five assisted blocks. Chris Heron (Las Vegas, Nev./Arbor View) had a season-high 17 digs. Both Vasinko and Young joined Seeley on the All-Tournament Team.
Juniata (21-10) heads into the NCAA Tournament winners of eight straight. The Eagles will find who their opponent will be when the field is announced on Monday morning at 10:00 a.m.