Rivier takes out Juniata in three sets for first NCAA tourney win, semifinal berth
ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- No. 15 Rivier jumped out to a fast start and advanced to the NCAA Men's Division III Volleyball semifinals with a 3-0 win against No. 8 Juniata in a quarterfinal matchup Friday night. Rivier (27-11) took the three sets 28-26, 25-20 and 25-23 to win their first NCAA tournament game.
The Raiders will now square off against the host and No. 1 team in the country, Nazareth, at 6 p.m. ET Saturday.
Sophomore Chris Markuson finished the match with a team-high 16 kills. Classmate Shane Spellman added nine kills and a .400 hitting percentage in the win. Senior Steve Visentin extended his fantastic season as he contributed 40 assists. The Great Northeast Athletic Conference Player of the Year and GNAC Tournament MVP now has an incredible 1,111 assists on the season.
In the first game, it was a defensive display at the net by both team's big men. The teams combined for eight blocks. Rivier was the statistical leader in the category coming into the matchup with Juniata ranked fourth.
The game was tied several times as the teams battled for the lead down the stretch. Juniata called timeout after a kill by All-American middle Aaron Almario gave Rivier the 20-19 lead.
The Eagles' Alex McColgin came out of the break swinging and sided-out with a kill from the outside. The game was tied three more times before a kill by Almario had the Raiders on game point, 24-23. A back-row kill by McColgin tied the game at 24. Juniata's Ross Madden then hit a cross-court shot that landed in front of the 10-foot line that put the Eagles on game point, 25-24.
Rivier responded by a kill from Terence Matall to tie it and a kill by Markuson put the Raiders on game point again. But an attack error by Markuson tied it up for the sixth and final time at 26.
Markuson put the next ball down for game point. And an ace secured the win.
In the second game, Rivier led by four (8-4) before the Eagles began driving back into the match and tied it at 9. But the Raiders began to pull away again, leading by as much as five (17-12) when Junata's All-American Paul Kuhn slammed down a ball on the right side.
Matt Elias went right back to Kuhn for another Kill and Juniata pulled within three (17-14). Justin Waldorf then dropped in back-to-back aces on float serves and Juniata suddenly trailed by just one, 17-16. That would be the closest Rivier would allow the Eagles as it pushed to a 25-21 win.
The third game was played incredibly tight, and was tied three times before the eighth point by each team. Rivier took the 12-9 lead when the Eagles began rallying again, pulling within two (15-13) and forcing the Raiders to take a timeout.
Down 20-18, a big block in the middle by Chad Albert followed by a kill from the back row by McColgin tied the game again. But Rivier retook the lead.
A kill by McColgin pulled Juniata within one (23-22) again and forced another Rivier timeout. The Raiders came out and sided-out to earn match point. Another kill by McColgin kept Juniata's hopes alive. But a block solo by Markuson on the right side ended the match and Juniata's season.
Next up for the Raiders will Nazareth, which is ranked second with a 35-1 record. The Golden Flyers took down No. 3 UC Santa Cruz in three sets in their quarterfinal match. This will be the third time that Rivier and Nazareth will have met in 2013. On Feb. 24 in the Baruch College Invitational, Nazareth handed the Raiders a three-set loss. Rivier then traveled to Rochester for a March 22 tilt and lost in the fifth set 15-13.