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Holding serve

Juniata has 29 aces in dominant win

Sentinel photo by MIKE GOSS
Juniata’s Mackenzie Bennett prepares to return a ball hit by a Midd-West player.

MIFFLINTOWN–Juniata volleyball coach Susan Paden has been asking her team to work on its serving to give the Indians momentum in putting better scoring runs together.

Message received.

Juniata held serve for most of the night and the Indians made the most of it, recording 29 service aces as the Indians downed the visiting Midd-West Mustangs in straight sets on Wednesday night at Juniata High School. Juniata won the sets 25-6, 25-10, 25-9.

“We’ve been really working on our serves, it’s been one of our main priorities of things to work on,” Paden said. “Seeing our girls make runs like that and having them be able to consistently serve shows that practice pays off and that keeping the serve is really important.”

Juniata (4-4) never trailed in the opening set. After a service error by Midd-West (0-8), the Indians rolled off a 9-1 run to take a 12-5 advantage, in large part because of the play by Mackenzie Bennett and Alexia Frontz. Frontz recorded four straight aces while the Indians continued to make Midd-West pay for miss hits.

The Indians finished the set on another lengthy scoring streak as Juniata closed the opening set on a 19-3 run.

“It’s our first year as a PIAA program, so a lot of the struggles we have is from inexperience and lack of stamina through a match,” Midd-West coach Loren Collins said. “Last year we only played three matches throughout the season and this year we only played eight, so we just have been practicing and practicing without an opponent to replicate that game speed of competition.”

The Indians continued to dictate the pace throughout the next two sets, using a string of aces and multiple kills from Bennett and Kacie Wood. Frontz recorded an ace to give the Indians a 10-7 lead in the second set before the score ballooned to 21-9 after an 11-1 scoring run for Juniata.

Frontz and Autumn Graybill recorded blocks for the Indians.

“We’ve been working on getting up and making blocks, so getting up and seeing them be ready to make those blocks and be up and ready at the net was great,” Paden said.

Juniata was well in control in the final set, as Katie Miller recorded a string of aces while Jasmine Hockenberry followed with aces of her own.

Bennett led the Indians with six kills and recorded three aces, while Hockenberry had a team-high 11 aces.

“I think it really boosted the confidence of the team and it made everyone feel better and made them want to play better,” Bennett said.

The Indians passing was working extremely well as Frontz and Bennett each were setting well for teammates. The chemistry between the Indians showed on the floor throughout the evening as passes were clean and accurate.

“It’s really good,” Bennett said. “It’s a lot different than in past years, but I just feel like the chemistry is really tight this year and I really like it.”

Paden was pleased to see multiple players producing as Juniata recieved at least one kill from seven different players, while five Indians recorded two or more aces.

“We’ve definitely changed our lineup and rotation a few times,” Paden said. “Not having a lot of practice time has been difficult to just kind of work through some things and figure things out. We’ve missed that time a lot but we just have to turn around, figure it out and get ready for the next day.”

Coming off an extremely competitive three-set loss to Northern Dauphin Christian School on Tuesday, the Indians responded with a dominant effort against the Mustangs.

“This is definitely a confidence boost for us and we have another game tomorrow, so we’re looking to come right back out tomorrow and play again,” Paden said.

Bennett agreed.

“I’m really pleased. I feel like this is going to give us a good boost for tomorrow.”

For Midd-West, Collins knows that her team has room for improvement and that the Mustangs are experiencing the growing pains of a first-year program.

“I think the big thing we need to still work on is being aggressive toward the ball and moving toward the ball,” Collins said. “A lot of that comes from inexperience and not knowing the court and the positions on the court as confidently. They are eons ahead of where they were before.”

After a three-match season as a club team a season ago, Collins is happy to see her team improving.

“Honestly, for being a first year program I am so proud of these girls,” Collins said. “From Day 1 to now is a vastly different team. They’ve learned a lot and adjusted a lot and have gained more confidence along the way.”

Juniata hosts Sugar Valley today.

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