Nov. 5, 2009
BOSTON, MA - University of Massachusetts Boston will serve host to the Little East Conference Women's Volleyball Semifinals and Championship by virtue of the women's volleyball team earning the number one seed in the tournament. The first semifinals match will feature UMass Boston and number five seed Rhode Island College on Friday, November 6 at 4:00 p.m. in the Clark Athletic Center gymnasium and the second semifinals contest will be played between second seeded Plymouth State University and the number three seed Western Connecticut State University at 6:00 p.m. The Championship match will be played on Saturday, November 7 at 12:00 p.m.
UMass Boston makes its eighth appearance in the LEC tournament, which dates back to 1995 and owns a 5-9 record in tournament play. The Beacons advanced to the championship match for the first time in school history last year, before falling in five games to Keene State College. Plymouth State makes its 14th appearance in the tourney and has compiled a 13-12 mark, including a championship in 2004. Western Connecticut State is one of three schools to have appeared in all 15 tournaments, including this year's and owns a 21-9 record, including five straight LEC titles from 1999 to 2003. Rhode Island College is also making its 15th appearance and has an all-time record of 8-19 in tournament play.
The Beacons earned the number one seed after finishing the conference slate with a perfect 7-0 record to capture their first-ever LEC regular season crown, while becoming just the second team in league history to not drop a set in conference play. UMass Boston has won a school-record 14 straight matches and owns a 27-4 overall record to set a new school mark for victories in a season. The Beacons held the number one ranking in the NCAA Division III New England Women's Volleyball Association poll for three weeks earlier in the campaign and are currently ranked second in the latest NCAA Division III Women's Volleyball poll for the third straight week. UMass Boston also received attention in the national Division III poll, receiving votes in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Poll with nine, 10, seven and six votes, respectively, in four successful weeks from September 15 to October 6. The Beacons defeated Plymouth State, 3-0, on October 24 in Boston, MA and swept Rhode Island College and Western Connecticut State by the same scores on October 31 in Danbury, CT. UMass Boston is led by senior outside hitter Kate McWhorter (Bakersfield, CA), who was named the LEC Offensive Player of the Week three times this year and ranks second in the league with 3.92 kills per set with a .391 hitting percentage to place third among conference leaders. Freshman middle hitter Shannon Thompson (Moorpark, CA) has also been a key player this season with seven Rookie of the Week awards to her credit. She stands sixth among conference leaders with 3.31 kills per set and fifth a .346 hitting mark, while leading the LEC with 0.77 aces per game. Sophomore setter Cassy Hanneman (Denver, CO) currently ranks third in the league with 9.67 assists per set, despite battling injuries all season and became the school's all-time leader in career assists on September 15.
Plymouth State has been outstanding this season with a 29-4 overall record, including 6-1 in LEC play. The Panthers' regular-season and conference win total equal the school record. Plymouth State began the campaign by winning its first 16 matches, including 27 straight sets without a defeat. The Panthers first loss came in a non-conference outing vs. Western Connecticut State at the Johnson & Wales Fall Classic, but they defeated the Colonials in a league match on September 26 in straight sets at home. Plymouth State took down Rhode Island College 3-0 in Providence, RI on September 19. The Panthers are led by senior middle hitter Eliza Badeau (Foster, RI), who leads the nation in hitting percentage with a .476 mark and is eighth with 4.49 kills per set, while senior setter Brianna Kleckner (Terryville, CT) ranks 22nd in the country with 10.49 assists per set.
Western Connecticut State defeated Eastern Connecticut State in the quarterfinals and owns a 26-7 record, which is just one short of the school standard for wins set in 1987 and is the only other LEC team, besides UMass Boston, to defeat Plymouth State this season in a non-conference match. West Conn registered a 5-2 LEC record and came away with a 3-1 decision over Rhode Island College on October 31. The Colonials rank second in the league in kills per set with 12.31 and third in hitting percentage with a .234 mark. They are led by senior middle hitter Becca Stein (Kingston, NY) with a .410 hitting clip to place second among league leaders and 1.30 blocks to top the conference, while freshman middle hitter Paxton Thornton (Sharon, CT) stands third in the LEC with 3.58 kills per set. Junior setter Sammie Hathaway (Milford, CT) ranks second with 10.46 assists per set and sophomore Kelley Collins (Massapequa, NY) leads all conference players with 6.33 digs per set.
Rhode Island College upset number four seed Keene State in five sets in Tuesday night's other quarterfinals match to become just the third number five seed to win a LEC tournament match. The Anchorwomen lead the league with 2.70 blocks per set and own an 18-18 record after going 3-4 in the league. Freshman outside hitter Brianna Boyer (West Greenwich, RI) leads Rhode Island College with 3.09 kills to rank eighth in the conference and freshman middle hitter Kalyn Archer (Warwick, RI) ranks second in the league with 1.22 blocks per set.