Panthers to host UMass Boston in title game on Saturday
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Senior Lex Bowers (Port St. Lucie, Fla.) and junior Francie Shaffer (Frederick, Colo.) each smashed 16 kills to lead third-seeded Plymouth State University to a thrilling 3-2 (25-17, 24-26, 25-20, 16-25, 15-7) win over second-seeded Eastern Connecticut State University in the semifinals of the Little East Conference (LEC) women's volleyball tournament at Francis E. Geissler Gymnasium on Thursday night.
Plymouth State advances to face fourth-seeded UMass Boston in the championship game on Saturday (Nov. 9) at 12:00 p.m., while the Warriors' season ends with a 14-12 mark. UMass Boston knocked off top-seeded WestConn in five sets in the evening's other semifinal match.
Plymouth State looked ready from the get-go, taking the first set 25-17 and leading set two 24-22 before the hosts rallied for a 26-24 win. Undeterred, the Panthers used a 6-0 run to erase an 18-17 deficit for a 25-20 win in set three, but Eastern Connecticut scored the final eight points in set four to force a fifth set. With the score tied at 4-4 and a trip to the finals on the line, the Panthers scored four straight points to take the lead for good, eventually rolling to a 15-7 win.
PSU avenged a 3-0 sweep at the hands of ECSU just last Saturday and will host the finals for just the second time in program history (2011). The Panthers improve to 32-4 on the season, matching the program record for victories set during the 2009 season.
Plymouth State 3, Eastern Connecticut 2
Plymouth State (32-4)
Eastern Connecticut (14-12)
How it Happened:
- Plymouth State came out strong right from the first serve taking a 4-1 lead and never relinquishing the advantage. PSU pushed the margin to 16-8 on a kill by Shaffer, but the Warriors ripped off five straight points to get back into the game. A service error stopped the run, however, and the Panthers would maintain the lead, closing out the win on an emphatic kill down the line by Shaffer.
- The teams traded four-point runs to open the second set and the score remained tight the rest of the way. PSU took a 21-19 lead on back-to-back kills from junior Carabeth Norklun (Goffstown, N.H.), but the Warriors answered with three straight to retake the lead. PSU regrouped out of a timeout and jumped ahead 24-22, but a missed serve on set point gave the Warriors new life and the hosts ran off three more points to steal a 26-24 win.
- With the third set knotted at 8-8, a Warriors' service error sparked a 4-0 run for the Panthers and forced a timeout. ECSU responded with a 5-1 surge to even the score at 13-13. Trailing 18-17, a Bowers' kill sparked a 6-0 run as PSU took control for a 25-20 win.
- The Panthers ran out to a 9-3 lead to open set four, forcing Eastern Connecticut to burn both of its timeouts. The Warriors didn't back down, though, as aggressive serving kept PSU out of system allowing the hosts to chip away and eventually pull ahead. PSU trailed by just one in the late stages, 17-16, but Eastern Connecticut ran off the next eight points to force a fifth set.
- PSU came out with a vengeance in the deciding set. Another Bowers' kill gave the Panthers a 5-4 lead, and sophomore Hannah Chartier (Weare, N.H.) served three straight points to make it 8-4 at the switch. The Warriors momentarily stopped the bleeding with a sideout, but Bowers put down another kill and the lead ballooned to 12-5 before freshman Emilee Flanagan (Milton, N.H.) found the back corner for the 15-7 win.
Inside the Numbers:
- Bowers and Shaffer led all players with their 16 kills, while Flanagan added 10 and Norklun chipped in with seven.
- Sophomore setter Alexa Price (Moultonborough, N.H.) finished with 51 assists, one shy of her career high, while senior libero Alisha Flanagan (Milton, N.H.) led all players with 27 digs. Sophomore Brooke Beaudet (Gilford, N.H.) 21 digs, with Chartier notching 11 of her own.
- The PSU defense limited Eastern Connecticut to a .168 attack percentage after the Warriors hit a season-high .352 in the match last Saturday. ECSU hit an even .000 in the fifth set.
- The Panthers improve to 6-1 in five set matches this season.
- Plymouth State advances to its seventh LEC title match and will face a familiar foe in UMass Boston. The Beacons were the opponent in each of PSU's three most recent finals appearances (2016, 2011, 2009), beating the Panthers in all three.
Straight From the Coach's Mouth:
"We came to play and put absolutely everything we had into the match," said head coach Joan Forge. "The team is so excited to have earned the opportunity to play at home for the LEC championship."
- Third-seeded Plymouth State will host the LEC finals for just the second time when fourth-seeded UMass Boston travels to Foley Gymnasium on Saturday (Nov. 9) for a 12:00 p.m. contest. The winner will earn the LEC's automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament.
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