Nov. 19, 2010

By Jim Faasen
Special to

Juniata College coach Larry Bock said he could tell how tight his team was very early in Friday's NCAA Division III quarterfinal with the University of St. Thomas.

But the Eagles shook off early tension to steal a game one victory on the way to a three-game sweep of the Tommies at Washington University.

"Surviving that first game had to be key to the whole thing for us," Bock said. "Just stealing that one was an awful big jolt of adrenaline."

Juniata (34-5) claimed a 25-22, 25-22, 25-16 win over St. Thomas (31-7) and a berth in Saturday's semifinals against either the University of Massachusetts-Boston or Calvin College.

After St. Thomas (St. Paul, Minn.) eased out to the early lead of as much as five points in game, Juniata (Huntington, Pa.) roared back.

A Taylor Harpster ace gave the Eagles their first lead at 23-22.

"As Taylor went in this match, so (did) we," Bock said. "We were kind of tight and we all loosened up and got it going."

In game two, Juniata jumped out to the early edge thanks to good defense and key hitting only to have St. Thomas claw back.

A 9-8 Juniata lead turned into an 11-9 St. Thomas advantage, thanks to three straight kills by Alesha Nelson.

That success was short-lived, though, as the Eagles once again came marching back. A tip by Kristin Noetzel gave Juniata the 22-21 lead and Harpster added the next point on a laser to make it 23-21.

An errant kill attempt by the Tommies' Nicole Potts ended the game at 25-22.

"We just went out and focused on it one point at a time and it helped us," Noetzel said.

Game three featured much less drama as Juniata jumped out to an early lead and never looked back.

A trio of Harpster aces grew the lead to 15-7 Eagles. From that point, the teams played even with Juniata earning the 25-16 win in game three.

Noetzel and Drew Barnhart led Juniata with 10 kills apiece while Steph Strauss' 33 assists paced the Eagles.