Nov. 6, 2011
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – Led by Tournament MVP Shannon Thompson (Moorpark, Calif.), the 20th ranked Beacons became only the third program in the history of the Little East Conference tournament to win three-straight tournament titles, as UMass Boston defeated top-seed Plymouth State University by the final score of 3-0 Sunday afternoon at Foley Gymnasium.
For Thompson the tournament MVP marked the second straight for the 6-2 middle, as she closed out championship Sunday with 15 kills and a.500 hitting percentage. Thompson was charged with just three errors on 24 attempts, and played a major part in carrying the Beacons past UMass in the first two sets. Defensively, she recorded 11 digs to earn her second straight double-double of the conference tournament
Also having a standout day was sophomore Corrine Porter (Huntington Beach, Calif.) who posted a combined 13 kills on 21 attempts (.429 hitting). Porter closed out the first two sets with back-to-back service aces to give UMass a 2-0 lead on the scoreboard.
Freshman Kirsten Morrison (North Reading, Mass.) had her best match of the season against the Panthers. Anytime she was served the ball, Morrison put everything she had behind it and finished with seven kills. She also came-up big with two solo blocks and two block-assists.
At the net Molly Rattigan (Dartmouth, Mass.) scored some crucial points with some creative moves. The senior tallied six kills, while also coming-up with a pair of big block-assists. Junior Kayla Wilson (San Jose, Calif.) had a strong match from the back line as she tallied 10 digs.
Sunday’s match truly could have gone either way in the first two sets. The two teams battled back and forth for every point. Plymouth State had all the momentum coming into the championship match after shutting out the fifth-seed Warriors of Eastern Connecticut State University on Saturday, and blanking UMass earlier in the year, ending their nearly two-year home match win-streak.
Once the whistle blew, both teams dug in deep and were ready to do whatever it took to bring home a title. Combined the two teams were tied on the scoreboard 13 times in the first set alone, with the score only changing hands twice. Every time UMass would go on a run, Plymouth would answer right back with one of their own. Tied at 23-23, the Beacons got a huge point from Morrison to put UMass in position for the win. Porter would then go to the end-line to serve what would be the deciding point. The sophomore crushed the ball over the net, and just as it looked to be going out, a Plymouth State player tried to keep it in, which she could not do as it shot off of her arms and off the back wall.
Now with the 1-0 lead, UMass knew the biggest set was the second. Just like the first, the two teams went back-and-forth trading point-for-point and run-for-run. The second set featured a total of eight lead changes and saw the two teams tied a combined 18 times. UMass seized control of the set late when they took advantage of three straight errors by the Panthers. That combined with a kill from Porter and then her second set-winning ace gave the Beacons the 2-0 lead.
The final set was all UMass from start to finish. The only time the score was tied was in the very beginning, and after that the Beacons just rolled right past the Panthers. On two different occasions the Beacons held an eight-point advantage over Plymouth State.
UMass will now wait until tomorrow morning when they find out where and who they will face in the 2011 NCAA Division III East Region championship tournament. The bracket will be announced on NCAA.com at approximately 11 a.m. The trip will be third straight for the Beacons, who will enter the tournament as the reigning East Region champions. Last season UMass defeated Springfield College in five sets to earn their first region title and trip to the NCAA Championship tournament.