Juniata College entered the 2017 Continental Volleyball Conference as the hottest team in the league, winners of their last six matches. They picked up lucky number seven on Friday afternoon, defeating defending champion Stevenson University 3-1 to advance to the CVC Championship match on Saturday.
Juniata, seeded two in the tournament, rode their offense to their seventh straight win; hitting .413 in the match. The Eagles offense has been the reason for the Eagles success as of late, topping the .290 mark in eight of their last ten matches, including their third time hitting above .400 during that stretch. The Eagles put down 56 kills with only 13 errors in the match.
With the score at 4-3 early in the opening set, Matt Vasinko started a three-point Eagles run that opened the game up. His teammate Quinn Peterson followed with back to back service aces to put the Eagles up 7-3. After a side out, the Eagles got the ball back on a kill by Kyle Seeley and tacked on two more points to open the score to 10-4. The Eagles would keep that margin of lead for the rest of the set as they finished with a 25-19 win.
Stevenson shot out to a 7-4 lead in the second set with Landon Shorts putting down three kills early on. However back to back errors put Juniata on top 11-10, and the Eagles capitalized further when Peterson and Mahlon Bender followed with kills.
The Mustangs closed the score to 17-16 after a kill from Michael Fehrs but the Eagles would not let go of the lead. After a Mustang error, the Eagles extended their lead to three points on a block by Michael Young and Kyle Seeley. The Eagles would wrap the set up on a kill by Vasinko, taking the set 25-22.
However, the defending champions would not go lightly. Even after being down two sets and falling behind 4-2 early in the third the Mustangs fought their way back into the match. Jason Gardner and Nate Ellis picked up back to back kills while another kill from Gardner would tie the score at 5-5. Tied at seven points each an Eagle hitting error gave Stevenson their first lead in a set since 10-9 in the second set. Stevenson would go on to pick up the next five points and open up a 13-8 lead. Juniata brought the score to 21-20 but the Mustangs held off the push and Nate Ellis finished the set off for Stevenson with a kill and a 25-23 win.
Juniata's continued offensive pressure was too much for Stevenson though. With the score at 6-6 in the fourth, Juniata rolled off four straight points and would only extend the edge as the set went on, eventually ending the match with a 25-18 win.
Juniata had three players reach double figures in kills with Quinn Peterson leading the way with 17 kills. Vasinko added 14 kills and Bender finished with 11 kills. Vasinko also added 10 digs while Michael Young finished with 48 assists. Juniata is now 20-10 overall and advances to the CVC Tournament Championship match where they will face #4 seed Eastern Mennonite at 6 p.m. on Saturday.
Stevenson hit .252 in the match with 46 kills and 19 errors but also committed 14 service errors. Landon Shorts led the way with 13 kills while Michael Fehrs chipped in with 10 kills and seven digs. Kyle Johnson finished the match with 36 assists. Stevenson falls to 20-12 overall.