Panthers' historic season comes up just short of a title
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – A dream season for the Plymouth State University women's volleyball team came to a disappointing end on Saturday as the third-seeded Panthers fell to fourth-seeded University of Massachusetts Boston in the Little East Conference (LEC) championship match at Foley Gymnasium.
In front of a packed house, the Beacons were able to hold off PSU by a 3-1 (25-22, 25-15, 20-25, 25-18) margin to capture the program's record ninth tournament title. UMass Boston improves to 12-18 and claims the LEC's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, while Plymouth State closes the year with a 32-5 mark, matching the school record for wins in a season. Junior Emilia Czapiewska (Saint Paul, Minn.) was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player after totaling 39 kills in the Beacons' three playoff matches, including a match-high 12 in the championship game.
Both teams played inspired from the start battling back and forth in a nip-and-tuck opening set that featured 12 ties and five lead changes. The Beacons used a 3-0 run to pull ahead, 23-19, and fought off a late Plymouth rally to take the first set, before getting into a groove offensively for the set two win. Plymouth State battled back in the third set, never trailing while using a 6-1 run to break an 18-18 tie, but UMB built a lead in the middle stages of the fourth set and the Panthers were unable to rally.
It was a remarkable turnaround from a year ago for Plymouth State. After being picked seventh in the preseason coaches' poll, the Panthers put together one of the top seasons in program history earning a share of the regular season title for the fourth time while advancing the finals for the seventh time.
Plymouth State 1, UMass Boston 3
Plymouth State (32-5)
UMass Boston (12-18)
How it Happened:
- The opening set went back and forth with neither team holding a lead greater than two points. With the score tied at 18-18, Czapiewska's kill sparked a 5-1 spurt for the Beacons. PSU was able to cut the deficit to 24-22 as junior Carabeth Norklun (Goffstown, N.H.) and sophomore Alexa Price (Moultonborough, N.H.) teamed up for a block, but senior Sarah Doyle's (Glendale, Calif.) kill gave UMB a 25-22 win.
- UMass Boston used an early run to build a 6-2 advantage in set two and the Beacons would lead the rest of the way. A kill from junior Francie Shaffer (Frederick, Colo.) and a UMB error pulled the Panthers to within five, 16-11, but that was as close as they would get as the Beacons coasted to a 25-15 win.
- Plymouth State responded well early in set three and three straight aces by sophomore Hannah Chartier (Weare, N.H.) gave the hosts a 10-4 lead. UMB rallied to pull within one, 12-11, but a 5-1 spurt pushed the advantage back to 17-12. The Beacons' block heated up, with Czapiewska and Doyle helping the visitors rally to knot the score at 18-18, but three straight kills for PSU restored the Panthers' lead and three late blocks by Shaffer and Norklun gave Plymouth State a 25-20 win.
- PSU trailed by just two, 10-8, following a Beacons' service error in set four, but UMB answered with a 9-2 surge to pull away. Plymouth State cut the margin to 23-18 with a late run, but a kill and ace wrapped up the match for UMass Boston, 25-18.
Inside the Numbers:
- Norklun tied for the team lead with seven kills and added seven blocks, while Price did it all with seven kills, 26 assists, eight digs and three blocks.
- Shaffer and senior Lex Bowers (Port St. Lucie, Fla.) chipped in with six kills apiece, with Shaffer adding three blocks and Bowers contributing 12 digs.
- Senior Alisha Flanagan (Milton, N.H.) led the Panthers with 15 digs.
- Czapiewska led all players with 12 kills and added five blocks, with Doyle adding seven kills and six blocks.
- Sophomore Marcelle Tiscareno (El Paso, Texas) added nine kills for the Beacons, while freshman Aleks Qose (Athens, Greece) paced the UMB defense with a match-high 16 digs.
- Junior setter Carsen Komminsk (Worthington, Ohio) handed out 35 assists and added nine digs.
- UMass Boston improves to 9-1 in the finals of the LEC Tournament, reaching the championship round in ten of the last 12 seasons, and has knocked Plymouth State out of the postseason three of the last four years.
Straight From the Coach's Mouth:
"I'm proud of the fight that we put up," said head coach Joan Forge. "To be down 0-2 and come back to win that third set and they never gave up … I think that's what it's all about. I'm proud of the effort and all we've accomplished this year."
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