NEWPORT NEWS, Va.- The Juniata women's volleyball team clawed their way to a come from behind, 3-2 (17-25,25-19, 23-25, 25-13, 15-9), victory over fifth-seeded Virginia Wesleyan Friday afternoon at The Freeman Center on the campus of Christopher Newport in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Virginia Wesleyan came out strong as they built a 4-13 lead early to take complete control of the opening set. A kill and an ace from Marie Gonsar (New Castle, Pa. / Shenango H.S.) followed by a kill from Victoria Taylor (Middletown, Del. / Delaware Military Academy) and a hitting error by the Marlins made it 15-22. But the Eagles couldn't get any closer as Virginia Wesleyan took set one 17-25 and they were buoyed by their .367 hitting percentage.
The second set was tighter early, with Virginia Wesleyan holding a 6-7 lead prior to a kill from Emma Davis (East Berlin, Pa / Dover Area HS) that tied the score at 7-7 which was followed by an absurd fading away cross-court kill from Gonsar that narrowly stayed inbounds to give JC the lead back. An attack error from the Marlins and an ace from Sophia Gingrich (Minneapolis, Minn. / Minneapolis Southwest H.S.) made it 10-7. Virginia Wesleyan called a timeout and promptly scored three straight to tie things at 10. Holding a 12-11 lead after the teams traded points, another kill from Gonsar followed by an attack error by the Marlins and a Makenna Hallager (Glenolden, Pa. / Merion Mercy Academy) ace made it 15-11. A kill from the Marlins made it 15-12, but Juniata didn't let them get any closer as the Eagles kept the lead at four the rest of the set. With the score at 23-19, Gonsar put down a kill to give the Eagles set point before she served up her second ace of the day to end set two.
The third set was the tightest set of the match as the largest lead was the 6-2 lead Juniata held early. The Marlins closed the gap and the teams traded haymakers the rest of the way. Back to back Taylor kills sandwiched around an ace from Hallager made it 21-19 late, but the Marlins took the next four points to make it 21-23. Taylor smashed two more kills to pull JC even, but the Marlins took the next two points to win set three, 23-25.
The Marlins held a 6-7 lead early in the fourth, but Juniata managed to take lead on a kill from Dejia Danhi (Ashburn, Va. / Stone Bridge), a block by Danhi and Gonsar followed by two straight attacking errors by Virginia Wesleyan. The Marlins managed to get back within one, 12-11, before a kill from Morgan Edwards (Lancaster, Pa. / Penn Manor) and an ace from Moira Folan (Pittsburgh, Pa. / Oakland Catholic HS) gave JC a little breathing room. Virginia Wesleyan called a timeout to try and quell the run, but it couldn't stop the Eagles as Juniata closed on an 11-2 run to take set four, 25-13, and a force a decisive fifth set.
The Marlins jumped ahead 1-3 as the Eagles were 12 points from their season coming to an end. Taylor had other ideas as she put down three straight kills to put Juniata ahead, 4-3. Following an Eagle service error, another Taylor kill and a Marlin attack error made it 6-4 which forced a Virginia Wesleyan timeout. Edwards put down a kill following the break to make it 7-4. The Marlins got one back via block before Edwards notched a kill and a Virginia Wesleyan error made it 9-5. Virginia Wesleyan managed to make it 10-8 and force a JC timeout. The Eagles responded as Davis tallied a kill, Taylor smashed two more kills and Gonsar notched her third ace to give the Eagles match point. The Marlins managed to stay alive through one more point to make it 14-9 before Taylor crushed her 25th kill of the match to send Juniata into the second round.
Taylor led the way with 25 kills and hit .375 while Folan ran the offense to the tune of 47 assists to go with 14 digs. Gonsar did a bit of everything as she totaled 10 kills, three assists, three aces, 13 digs a solo block and a block assist. Danhi added six kills (.545.) to go with four block assists.
The Eagles will face #7 Trinity, tomorrow at 2:30.