Nov. 9, 2009

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - The University of Massachusetts Boston women's volleyball team will play Westfield State College on Thursday, November 12 at 3:00 p.m. in the first round of the National Collegiate Athletic Association Tournament it was announced this morning during the NCAA Division III Women's Volleyball selection show, broadcast on broadband via www.NCAA.com from an in-house studio at the NCAA national office in Indianapolis, IN. The eight-team New England bracket of the tournament will be hosted in Medford, MA by Tufts University for the second straight year.

Both the Beacons and the Owls will be making their first-ever appearances in the NCAA Tournament following their respective conference tournament championships to earn automatic bids. UMass Boston defeated Plymouth State University 25-17, 13-25, 25-15, 25-14, to capture the Little East Conference crown on Saturday, while Westfield State took down Bridgewater State College, 25-15, 21-25, 25-16, 25-21 to earn the Massachusetts State College Athletic Conference title.

The Beacons, who are the number two seed in the regional, have won a school-record 16 straight matches and own a 29-4 overall record, including a perfect 7-0 in LEC play to set a new school mark for victories in a season. UMass Boston posted an unblemished 13-0 home record, while dropping just two sets on its home floor all year. 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. They 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. UMass Boston's hitting prowess has been a major reason for its success with a .327 hitting percentage to lead the nation. The Beacons are 3-4 in the all-time series vs. Westfield State and have not faced the Owls since a home victory on September 24, 1988.

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 3.97 kills per set and a .396 hitting percentage to place third among conference leaders. The hitter ranks 12th in the country in hitting percentage and 26th in kills per set, while 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 fourth among conference leaders with 3.39 kills per set and a .351 hitting mark, while leading the LEC with 0.75 aces per game, which also put her 21st among the NCAA Division III leaders. Sophomore setter Cassy Hanneman (Denver, CO) currently ranks third in the league with 9.76 assists per set, despite battling injuries all season and broke her own school record with her 1,064th assist of the season on Saturday. Senior outside hitter Kate White (Plymouth, MA) is the Beacons' career leader in kills with 1,182 and has put down 2.01 kills per set on a .210 hitting mark this season, while sophomore middle hitter Molly Rattigan (Dorchester, MA) became the school's career leader in block assists with 110 and ranks second with 75 total blocks in addition to spiking for 1.26 kills per set on an efficient .376 hitting mark. Freshman middle hitter Alexa Sullivan (South Dennis, MA) is one of four rookies to contribute as a starter for UMass Boston and leads the squad with 80 total blocks and has swung for 1.32 kills per set, while maintaining a .331 hitting clip to go with 21 aces. Classmate Bethany Rossoll (Colorado Springs, CO) has played in all but one set as the team's libero and leads the Beacons with 3.74 digs per game, which also places her seventh among LEC leaders.

Westfield State posted a 19-15 record, including 6-0 in the MASCAC and is mentored by Head Coach Fred Glanville, who was tabbed the league's Coach of the Year. The Owls are led by the team's Most Valuable Player, senior outside hitter Stephanie Bartkus (North Merrick, NY), who ranked second on the squad with 264 kills in 105 sets for 2.51 kills to go with 2.49 digs and 0.30 aces per set. Sophomore outside hitter Alex Shaw (East Falmouth, MA) was also a force with a team-high 301 kills in 113 sets for 2.66 kills per set to go with a .237 hitting clip and a team-best 0.41 aces per game, while junior Rachel Ryan (Westborough, MA) came on strong to post 2.73 kills per set and a .249 hitting mark in 49 sets and earned MASCAC Tournament MVP honors. Freshman Alyssa Stankowski (Deerfield, MA) added depth with 1.21 kills and 1.90 digs per set to claim MASCAC Rookie of the Year accolades. Sophomore setter Kerin DeGirolamo (North Attleboro, MA) runs the offense with 8.44 assists per set and leads the squad with 47 aces and senior libero Katie Kurty (Ludlow, MA) anchors the defense with 4.92 digs per set.

Click here for the NCAA Tournament bracket.