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August 29, 2013

Little East Conference announces Preseason Volleyball Poll

UMass Boston near unanimous top pick; PSU fifth

            NORTH DARTMOUTH, Mass. – The Little East Conference volleyball coaches have voted the University of Massachusetts Boston as the preseason frontrunner to capture the 2013 conference championship.  The four-time defending champion Beacons are coming off a 20-12 season that included the program's second NCAA Division III New England Regional Championship in the past three years.

            UMass Boston received seven first-place votes and 63 total points to enter the season as the top choice in the preseason coaches' survey for the fifth consecutive campaign.  Keene State College received the remaining first-place vote to tie Western Connecticut State University with 52 points.  Eastern Connecticut State University placed fourth with 35 points to complete the top half of the preseason poll.

            Under the leadership of head coaches Terry Condon and Mike Houlihan, the Beacons will attempt to become just the second team in conference history to capture five consecutive Little East tournament championships (Western, 1999-2003).  Last season, UMass Boston posted a 6-1 mark inside the conference circuit to earn a share of the regular-season title with the Colonials.  The Beacons raised the program's fourth Little East tournament championship trophy with victories over fifth-seeded Rhode Island College and third-seeded Keene State.  Condon led her charges into the semifinals of the New England Regional tournament with a first-round win over MIT.  UMass Boston edged host and top-seeded Connecticut College in five sets to advance to the program's third straight regional final.  In a back and forth final, the Beacons were able to outlast Bowdoin College in the decisive fifth set, 15-13, to capture the New England Regional Championship and make the program's second appearance in the past three years in the NCAA Division III National Quarterfinals.

            Condon and Houlihan welcome back four starters and a total of nine student-athletes into the fold from the 2012 squad.  Senior Corrine Porter (Huntington Beach, Calif.) is expected to fill the void left by the graduation of three-time All-American Shannon Thompson (Moorpark, Calif.).  Porter, a 2012 All-Little East selection, registered 211 kills and 381 digs during her junior campaign.  UMass Boston will open its 2013 season at 2 p.m. on August 30 against Augsburg College (Minn.).

            A year ago, Head Coach Bob Weiner guided his Owls to their second appearance in the Little East Championship match for the second time in the past three seasons.  Keene State posted an overall record of 20-17, including a 5-2 mark in the conference to place third.  The Owls earned the No. 3 seed in the Little East field and utilized their home court advantage to blank intra-state rival Plymouth State.  Keene State rallied to upset the Colonials in four-sets to set up a showdown with the top-seeded Beacons.  Despite a loss in the championship match, Weiner and his charges qualified for the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Division III New England tournament where the Owls reached the semifinals.

            Last fall, Western Connecticut (18-13) earned a share of the Little East regular-season title for the first time since 2004. The Colonials captured the No. 2 seed in the conference championship tournament and earned a bye into the semifinals with a 6-1 record in Little East play.  Western led the conference in team blocks per set (1.72), while ranking among the leaders in digs (2nd, 16.53 per set). First-year Head Coach Don Ferguson mentored four All-Little East selections, including the 2012 Defensive Player of the Year in Shirley Rodriguez.  The Colonials will make their 2013 debut at the Western Connecticut Invitational when Western squares off against Brandeis at 12 p.m. on August 31.

            The Little East will sponsor a round-robin conference schedule with each team meeting each other once in the regular-season.  The top-six teams in the final regular-season standings advance to the 2013 Little East Volleyball Championship with the two highest seeds earning a first round bye on Tuesday, November 5.  The top-seed will host the conference semifinal and championship rounds between November 9 and 10 with the Little East champion capturing the automatic qualifier into the 2013 NCAA Division III Championship.

            Completing the preseason coaches' poll in projected order of finish in the final regular-season standings are Plymouth State University (33), Rhode Island College (26), University of Massachusetts Dartmouth (14), and University of Southern Maine (13), respectively.

            Formed in 1986, the Little East serves as New England's premier athletic conference for public institutions in NCAA Division III.  Featuring 19 championship sports, the Little East sponsors quality competition in every season for our student athletes.  Our eight state colleges and universities dedicate themselves to an ongoing fulfillment of the Division III mission of passion, responsibility, sportsmanship, and citizenship. 

2013 Little East Volleyball Preseason Coaches' Poll 

Rank Institution 1st Place Total Points
1 UMass Boston 7 63
2 Keene State 1 52
  Western Connecticut   52
4 Eastern Connecticut   35
5 Plymouth State   33
6 Rhode Island College   26
7 UMass Dartmouth   14
8 Southern Maine   13

 (Courtesy of the Little East Conference)

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