HUNTINGDON, Pa. – Sixth-ranked Juniata showed why they are one of the topped ranked teams in the country on Wednesday night, defeating The University of Scranton in three sets in a Landmark Conference volleyball semifinal match.
The top-seeded Eagles (23-3) won by set scores of 25-12, 25-20, and 25-18 to advance to Saturday's championship match where they will host second-seeded Susquehanna, a four-set winner over third-seeded Catholic, shooting for their 12th straight Landmark title after posting their 21st consecutive win.
The Royals, who were the fourth seed in the fall's postseason tournament, battled the Eagles tough after a difficult opening set, but were unable climb back into the match while ending their season with a 19-17 record.
Wednesday night's opening set was tied 6-6 before Juniata used an 11-4 run to open up a 17-10 advantage. After an attack error brought Scranton to within six points, the Eagles pulled away with eight of the last nine points to win the set.
The Royals hung tight with the hosts in the second set, tying the game up at 13-13 on kill from sophomore Jillian Graham (Wantagh, N.Y./Wantagh), but Juniata tallied 11 of the next 13 points to claim a 24-15 lead. Scranton battled back with the next five points, cutting its deficit to 24-20, before the Eagles called a timeout before closing out the set with a kill.
The third set was similar to the second one as the two teams were tied 10-10 after a block by senior Catherine Manning (Eastchester, N.Y./Eastchester) before Juniata used a 5-1 burst to claim a 15-11 advantage. The Royals pulled back to within two points, but could come now closer as the Eagles closed out the match with a seven-point decision in the set.
Senior Kristin Kirwan (Park Ridge, N.J./Immaculate Heart Academy) led all players with nine kills in the match, finishing her illustrious career with a Landmark and Scranton record 1,823 kills.
Graham totaled six kills while senior Megan Monastra (West Chester, Pa./Villa Maria Academy) added four kills and seven digs in her final match for the Royals.
Sophomore Kindler Norman (Pittsburgh, Pa./Upper St. Clair) tied for a match-high with 18 assists while fellow sophomore Regina Schetroma (Downingtown, Pa./Downingtown West) also finished level for a match-best with 11 digs on the evening.
Manning totaled two blocks on the evening and with one block assist, ends her career second all-time in program history in that category with 229 block assists in her career.
Kirwan, Manning, and Monastra saw their outstanding careers come to an end after leading Scranton to 101 victories and four playoff appearances over the past four seasons.