BOSTON, Mass. - Freshman middle hitter Shannon Thompson (Moorpark, Calif.) smashed a career-high 24 kills and senior outside hitter Kate McWhorter (Bakersfield, Calif.) registered 14 of her 18 kills in the final two sets Saturday afternoon to lead the number one seed University of Massachusetts Boston over number two seed Plymouth State University, 3-1, in the Little East Conference women's volleyball championship at UMB's Clark Center.
UMB won by scores of 25-17, 13-25, 25-15, and 25-14 to and capture the school's first-ever Little East Conference tournament championship and earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. The Panthers, who are ranked 12th in the latest NCAA Division III New England Women's Volleyball Association poll, fall to 30-5 and will await word on a post-season tournament berth.
The Beacons, who are ranked second in the latest NCAA Division III New England Women's Volleyball poll, win their school-record 16th straight contest and have won 27 of their last 29 matches to improve to 29-4 overall. UMass Boston having its best season in school history and will learn its NCAA opponent on Monday, Nov. 9.
The Beacons held just a 10-9 edge in the opening set, before reeling off 10 unanswered points during the service of sophomore Cassy Hanneman (Denver, Colo.). She fired three aces during the run to give the home team a 19-9 advantage, before closing out the set. Plymouth State responded in the second set with seven of the first eight points for a 7-1 lead and later owed an 18-7 advantage, before handing UMass Boston its first set loss by a Little East Conference opponent this season to snap a streak of 25 straight frames without a loss.
The Beacons returned the favor in the third set by racing out to a 6-1 lead, but the Panthers answered with a 5-1 run to close to within 7-6 and stayed close at 13-12. UMass Boston put some distance between it and the visitors with five straight points coming during Thompson's serve to take an 18-12 lead. The Beacons scored seven of the next 10 points to win to take a 2-1 lead in the match. UMB took control of the fourth set with an early 8-3 lead and later increased its advantage to 17-7 with a 9-4 run. Plymouth State would come to within 23-14, before the Beacons shined with the final two points to win the conference crown.
Thompson came out strong for UMass Boston with 10 kills in 14 attempts and finished the day with a .525 hitting mark to go with seven digs and a pair of aces, while McWhorter finished with a .378 hitting percentage to go with 13 digs for her 15th double-double of the campaign. Sophomore setter Cassy Hanneman (Denver, Colo.) was the catalyst for the offense with 43 assists in addition to four aces and 14 digs, and freshman libero Bethany Rossoll (Colorado Springs, Colo.) scooped up 14 digs to contribute to the defense.
Senior middle hitter Eliza Badeau (Foster, R.I.) led the Panthers with 13 kills on a .323 hitting clip and added a block, while sophomore Meghan Sullivan (Marlton, N.J.) contributed with a strong serving game to the tune of four aces in addition to six kills. Senior Megan Elliott (West Haven, Conn.) chipped in with six kills, while senior setter Brianna Kleckner (Terryville, Conn.) controlled the action with 30 assists to go with 12 digs. Sophomore libero Alex Avery (Milton, N.H.) and junior defensive specialist Kelsey Petty (Salem, N.H.) got down for 14 and 13 digs, respectively.
(Courtesy of UMass Boston Sports Information)
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