Nov. 20, 2008

BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (November 20, 2008) - The 2008 Division III National Championships kicked-off on host site Illinois Wesleyan University's campus this afternoon, with national power Juniata College knocking off a talented University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh squad in straight sets in the first match of the tournament's quarterfinal round.

In the opening set, Juniata (35-4) secured a narrow 25-23 win, thanks largely to senior Erin Albert's highly efficient attacking. The middle blocker swatted kills in four of her five attempts (.800), while fellow Eagles' teammate and 2008 AVCA Division III Player of the Year, Amber Thomas, also added four kills in the first stanza. The set began tight, until Juniata used a 6-1 run to build a five-point (10-5) cushion. Wisconsin-Oshkosh (40-3) battled back, tying the set at 13-all, and the teams continued to compete neck-in-neck the rest of the way, with the Eagles eventually securing the slim victory.

The second set belonged to Juniata, as the Eagles powered their way to a 25-15 win. After the two squads were deadlocked at 5-5 early on, the Juniata defense stole the show, out-blocking the Titans 5-0 during the frame. Thomas and Albert continued to key the Juniata effort, with Thomas totaling six kills and three blocks and Albert adding three kills and two blocks of her own. Wisconsin-Oshkosh's AVCA Third-Team All-America selection Jacque Ray provided the Titans' offense a spark, drilling five kills in the set.

Another nail-biter surfaced in the third set, with the Eagles again narrowly slipping by the Titans, this time by a 25-22 count. Following suit, Thomas and Albert evenly split eight kills during the frame for Juniata, while Ray added three kills to lead the UW-Oshkosh effort.

For the match, Juniata, led by the Thomas and Albert tandem, hit .323 as a team, while holding the Titans' attack corps to a .181 hitting percentage. Thomas turned in an all-around performance, totaling 12 kills, four digs and four blocks, and Albert chipped in 11 kills and five blocks. A pair of AVCA All-American setters, Beth Kozak (Honorable Mention) and Steph Strauss, (Second-Team) combined to direct the Eagles' offense with 29 assists, and AVCA Second-Team All-American libero Megan Sollenberger tallied 15 digs.

For Wisconsin-Oshkosh, Ray ended the day with 12 kills, hitting at a .375 clip, and totaled two blocks.Kelsey Maurer chipped in seven kills and two blocks for the Titans, while setter Katelyn Vara dished out 28 assists and added three kills. AVCA First-Team All-American libero Christina Cahoon ended the season with another outstanding defensive effort, scooping up 19 digs.

Juniata will now advance to the national semifinals on Friday, Nov. 21, where it will face-off against the winner of the University of La Verne (25-2) and SUNY New Paltz (32-9). First serve is set for 4:30 p.m. CST.