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Halifax falls to Juniata at net

Sentinel photo by MIKE GOSS
Juniata’s Imarilis Mercado goes for a kill against Halifax Wednesday in Mifflintown.

MIFFLINTOWN — Juniata rallied from a 1-0 deficit to sweep the next three games and down Halifax for its first Tri-Valley League girls’ volleyball win of the season on Wednesday.

The Indians dropped game one 25-21 before turning up the intensity capturing the next three by counts of 25-12, 25-11 and 25-11.

“They came alive, woke up and really wanted it. Halifax pounded us into the ground for three years, so they felt they needed some revenge against them and they got it,” Juniata coach Sam Liberatore said. “This is the best game we’ve had this season and our best game we’ve had in the past three years by far. This was the best volleyball I’ve ever seen them play.”

Hunter Johns led Juniata (3-9, 1-3) with 10 kills, while Imarilis Mercado and Jasmine Hockenberry had five each.

“We were aggressive upfront. As I said, it was about revenge, I told them to put it into the ball and they did,” Liberatore said.

Halifax (4-16-1, 0-4) went on an 8-0 run to take a 15-7 advantage in game one. Hannah Roland, who led the Wildcats with six kills, had seven service points in the scoring splurge. Juniata battled back and took the lead at 20-19 before the visitors closed it out with a 6-1 run to take game one.

That was the last time Halifax would be a threat.

The Indians used strong service and powerful hitting to dominate the next three games. In game two, the Indians broke open a tight 8-7 contest with a 9-0 run on the service game of Johns, who had two aces during the rally.

Juniata kept the pressure on with kills from Angelica Ybarra and Maddie Royer, allowing the Indians to take control. A Wildcat service error made it 25-12, evening things up at 1-1.

The third game was a mirror image of the second with the Indians using a powerful hitting game with strong serves to keep Halifax off-balance. Juniata closed out the third with a 9-0 run with eight points coming from the serve of Kiersten Willis.

“We had very few errors in our service game. They were nicely placed and Halifax couldn’t come back and get it,” Liberatore said. “Our hitting game was solid as well. They put their whole strength into their swings. Serving and hitting got us pretty far.”

With the score deadlocked at 4-4 in game four, the Big Red jumped out on an 11-2 run to take a commanding lead. Halifax whittled it down to 18-10, but it was too little too late.

The Indians closed out the match with a 7-1 outburst. Ybarra had three service points, Johns and Mercado each had a kill and Royer collected two service points and an ace.

“In the past three years, it’s incredible how far they’ve come, but the progress they showed today, everything they have struggled with in the past, they did it almost immaculately today,” Liberatore said. “The potential we have coming up is strong. We lose some key seniors, but I’m not worried. We have outstanding talent coming up.”

Juniata hosts Upper Dauphin in a TVL contest on Thursday.

Juniata 3, Halifax 1

21-25, 25-12, 25-11, 25-11.

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