Deputy Sports Editor
Juniata’s Matt Vasinko and Mahlon Bender leapt simultaneously as Wentworth’s Sean Mullen and Ollie Oshman took to the air in attempt to land the Leopards’ ninth kill of the third set. But as Mullen snapped his arm forward with anticipation of further dampening the Eagles’ spirits, Vasinko met him at the top of the net. The junior thrusted his arms forward, and Mullen’s shot was promptly reversed, the ball floating harmlessly to the Leopards backcourt.
Down 2-0 in the Division III men’s volleyball quarterfinals, Juniata still possessed a fight that kept them within striking distance of Wentworth. However, the Leopards executed an attack with a .458 hit percentage and eight service aces to come away with a 3-0 victory. The Eagles were unable to land an ace on the Leopards, and finished the evening hitting at a .359 clip.
“[Wentworth] has three pins with big arms, who are able to control the ball,” said Juniata head coach Glenn DeHaven. “Unless you’re ready for that, or are able to put two blockers right in front of them, they run with just enough balance to keep you on your toes while playing extremely fast. Kudos to them, they served and passed better than us. Their pins were terminal.”
Despite beginning the match with a .273 hit percentage, Juniata took advantage of Wentworth’s four service errors and hung with the Leopards for a good of the opening set. The Eagles traded blows with their opponent until Wentworth’s Ollie Oshman (six kills) blocked Quinn Peterson (seven kills, three digs) to push the score to 11-9 in favor of the Leopards. From there, Wentworth went on a 14-9 run to claim the first set 25-20.
Juniata responded in set two to jump out to a 3-0 advantage, fueled by consecutive plays of a Kyle Seeley (eight kills, one block) kill and block. This would prove to be the Eagles’ largest lead on the evening. Four Juniata service errors would quickly flip the score to 10-6 in Wentworth’s favor, forcing the Eagles to burn a timeout. The Leopards would finish hitting .522 and claimed the set 25-17, jumping into the driver’s seat with a 2-0 advantage. Eight service errors thwarted Juniata’s efforts to shift the match to a 1-1 tie.
“We didn’t eclipse 70 percent in any set tonight,” said DeHaven. “Wentworth had a great game plan. By being able to convert eight service aces, they really put us in a lot of trouble. We were retreating instead of taking the fight to them.”
Although the Eagles out-hit Wentworth, .500 to .348 in the final set, the Leopards’ Alex Potts (five kills, four service aces) landed two straight aces to push Wentworth to a 6-3 advantage, permanently shifting the momentum into its favor early in the set. Behind the efforts of Jon Roat (11 kills, .333 hit percentage), Jake Reed (12 kills, .400 hit percentage, four digs), and Sean Mullen (10 kills, four assists, two aces, two digs), the Leopards would put Juniata away by the score of 25-21 to complete the straight set sweep. Wentworth will move on to play SUNY New Paltz in the semifinals at 6:30 tomorrow.
“New Paltz has a lot of talented guys,” said Wentworth head coach Evin Giglio. “They have some All-Americans who were on their team when they won the national championship. They’re really talented, a really big physical team. Their middles swing well, they serve really aggressively, so tomorrow’s going to be a battle.”