Courtesy of Juniata Sports Information
HUNTINGDON, Pa. – In a battle of the tournament's top seeded teams, top-seeded and No. 9 Juniata College women's volleyball team claimed the 2013 Landmark Conference title, 3-1 (25-17, 25-18, 19-25, 25-10), over second seed Susquehanna University. The Eagles earned their seventh consecutive Landmark title, finishing with a perfect 7-0 mark in conference play, including tournament wins over The University of Scranton in the semifinals and Susquehanna in the championship. Junior Amelia Kepler was named tournament Most Valuable Player.
The Eagles opened the match with six straight points, forcing a Susquehanna timeout, before the Crusaders were able to get on the board. The Juniata blocked continued its strong performance on the weekend, helping to stretch the Eagles lead to 13-2. Susquehanna started to show life with a strong block of its own, forcing a Juniata timeout at 15-9 after taking four straight points. The Eagles looked to be well in control at 18-12, but Susquehanna forced a number of long rallies to pull within four. Freshman Nakita Gearhart ended the set on a Juniata kill for the 25-17 win and the 1-0 sets-lead. Both Gearhart and Kepler finished the match with 14 kills and senior Amy Miller had a match-high 15 kills and added 10 digs.
Susquehanna took the first point of the second set, but the Eagles rattle off the next five straight. The Crusaders maintained their composure and made a three point run to stay close to the Eagles at 6-5. With Miller serving, Juniata pulled back out to a five-point lead at 9-4. Miller's continued hard-swinging success gave the Eagles an 18-13 lead for a firm grip on the second set. Susquehanna hammered out a few points of its own to pull within three, late in the set, but Kepler worked the outside well and Juniata took set two 25-18. Junior libero Brittani Young totaled a match-high 26 digs.
The third set stayed closer than the first two as, every time the Eagles looked to stretch their lead out, the Crusaders were able to stay within four points of the reigning champions. Susquehanna pulled level at 12-12 and took its first lead since the first point of the second set at 13-12 to force a Juniata timeout. The Crusaders took the first point out of the break and continued to pile on, taking set three 25-19.
Susquehanna carried the hope of upset all the way to 4-4 in in the fourth set, before Juniata's power became too much and the Eagles took the 9-4 lead. Gearhart and Miller tag-teamed the set to the midway 13-6 lead. On the service of freshman Kelly Reynolds, Juniata bolstered its lead to 20-8 and junior Christine Sumner brought down three of the last four points for the 25-10 victory and Juniata's seventh Landmark title.
With the win, the Eagles have earned an automatic qualifying bid to the NCAA Division III Women's Volleyball Tournament. Regionals will take place Nov. 15-16 at a time and location to be announced.