Panthers finish runner-up in Little East Tourney
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Junior Shannon Thompson smashed a match-high 15 kills and made 11 digs Sunday afternoon to lead second-seeded University of Massachusetts Boston to a three-game sweep (25-23, 25-21, 25-17) of top-seeded Plymouth State University in the championship match of the Little East Conference Volleyball Tournament at PSU's Foley Gymnasium.
The Beacons, 26-4 overall, capture their third consecutive LEC Tournament and receive the conference's automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Championships. UMB becomes the third school to win three straight LEC volleyball titles, joining Western Connecticut State University (1999-03) and Eastern Connecticut State University (2005-07).
UMB avenged its regular-season setback to PSU less than two weeks ago, which gave the Panthers home-court advantage for the tournament. Plymouth State, 23-10, which was playing in the LEC final for the second time in three years, awaits a possible NCAA or ECAC New England Tournament berth.
Thompson, who was selected the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, recorded a .500 hitting percentage, with 15 kills and just three errors in 24 attempts. Sophomore Corrine Porter added 13 kills, a match-high three aces and a .429 attack percentage and freshman Kirsten Morrison contributed seven kills and four blocks. Junior libero Kayla Wilson registered 10 digs, and senior setter Cassy Hanneman posted 40 assists.
Plymouth State, which had registered a.405 attack percentage in Saturday's semifinal victory over Eastern Connecticut, was limited to a .217 percentage in the finals against the Beacons.
The first set was very close and could have gone either way. UMB had the lead midway through, 12-8, when PSU rallied for six straight points to go up by two points. It was tied again at 22 and 23, and UMB pulled out the set on a kill by Morrison and an ace by Porter.
The second set was close as well, with several lead changes. The Beacons pulled ahead 17-14, but PSU responded to tie it at 17-all. It was tied again at 20, but UMB took five of the next six points to win the set, 25-21.
With victory in sight, the Beacons took control of the third set early on. It was tied at 5-5 when UMB won nine of the next 11 points to open the biggest lead of the day, 14-7. Thompson turned it into a higher gear with several big kills down the stretch, and Porter finished it off with a kill at 24-17.
Both teams will learn the post-season schedule when the NCAA and ECAC Tournament fields are announced on Monday.
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