JC
Kuhn

FULLERTON, Calif. -- Fifth-ranked Juniata opened its season against Hope International on its four-day California trip and took away a 3-2 (20-25,25-18,25-20,17-25,15-12) victory against the Royals in Darling Pavilion Wednesday night.

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 Eagles a while to find their pace, but once they did the second set was belonged to them. Prior to the Eagles taking the lead for good with a Ben Wolff kill assisted by John Almquist 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 Paul Kuhn kills along with a kill apiece from Wolff and Ross Madden.

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 Eric McCarthy.

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 Paul Ejups 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. Joe Bortak 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.