Top 12 of 2012: #1 Women's Volleyball Downs Bowdoin To Return To Elite Eight (11/11)
This is the twelfth and final segment in our Top 12 of 2012 series. Every day for the rest of 2012, we will count down the Top 12 moments/games of the year with each program represented. With two Little East Conference Champions, a handful of wins against nationally ranked teams and several program firsts-2012 was quite the year.
We round out our Top 12 of 2012 with Women's Volleyball's epic NCAA Regional Championship victory over the Bowdoin College Polar Bears.
No game, match, meet or contest encompassed more energy, intrigue and drama in 2012 then the five-set thriller in New Haven, Connecticut.
The fact that the Beacons even reached the Regional Championship match was a bit of a surprise to much of the volleyball world. Head coach Terry Condon's squad was forced to play their entire season on the road while adjusting to losing two All-Region players to graduation and two new setters in the lineup.
After seemingly gaining their momentum in late September and early October, the Beacons closed out the regular season on a four-game losing streak, before coming away with their fourth-straight Little East Conference Tournament Championship.
In the first round of the NCAA Tournament the Beacons dispatched MIT 3-1, before taking on the top-seeded and favorites Connecticut College. Despite a raucous crowd against them and a two set to one deficit, the Beacons fought back and earned a dramatic 18-16 fifth-set victory to set up a rematch with the Polar Bears.
Bowdoin had been the one team in New England that had the Beacons number. After barely beating the Polar Bears in the NCAA Regional Semifinals in 2011, Bowdoin pummeled the Beacons twice in the regular season, proving to be one of two New England squads to down UMB. While UMass Boston failed to garner any All-Region attention, the second-seeded Polar Bears placed two players on the first team, as they looked for their first ever NCAA Elite Eight appearance.
The match was destined to be remembered before it even started, as close to one hundred fans filled the stands cheering on their classmates and friends. The Blue clad raucous crowd set up an intense atmosphere as the two teams took the court for the third and final time in 2012.
UMass Boston fed off the energy running out to an 8-0 lead against the stunned Polar Bears. While Bowdoin would recover and cut the deficit to as few as six, UMB managed to hang on and grab a 25-14 first set victory.
The Beacons looked poise to pull off another big run to begin the second set by grabbing the first two points, but Bowdoin knocked off six of the net seven points to grab the lead. Bowdoin would cruise from there as they grabbed a 25-18 lead to even the score at 1-1.
The two teams traded mini-rallies until UMB saw their lead cut to 23-22. But with the pressure rising, tri-captains Shannon Thompson (Moorpark, Calif.) and Amber Clemons (Simi Valley, Calif.) struck huge kills to give the Beacons a tense 25-23 win.
With their backs against the wall, Bowdoin left nothing to chance, wiping away a 5-5 start with five straight points to easily earn a 25-12 fourth-set win.
After two prior matches and 12 grueling sets, the Beacons season came down to a best of 15.
As each of the past three sets had gone, the two teams traded points in the early going, with UMB earning an 8-7 lead thanks to a Bowdoin service error. Thompson followed with three huge kills to open up a 12-9 lead and force Bowdoin to take their final timeout.
But in a season of as many ups-and-downs as volleyball through, there was no way the Polar Bears would let the Beacons win that easily. The two teams each recorded kills before back-to-back attack errors and a Polar Bear kill evened the score at 13 and forced Condon to use her final timeout.
The three-time All American and top hitter in school history received a pass well behind the net from Megan Pollock (Wilton, Calif.) and rocketed a shot cross-court that skipped off the line and into the Bowdoin bench to end it.
As the ball rocketed off the floor and the referee signaled it was in, the Luce Field House stands emptied as the Beacons crowd rushed to congratulate the team.
Thirty-one games, no home contest, six new faces and a brutal schedule-all culminating in one shining moment.