HOLLAND, Michigan – After a red-hot start which gave UMass Boston an early 1-0 lead, the fifth ranked Captains of Christopher Newport University responded with three straight wins to defeat the Beacons by the final of 3-1 Thursday evening in the NCAA Division III Volleyball National tournament quarterfinal round at the DeVos Fieldhouse on the campus of Hope College.
With the loss the Beacons closed out the year with a 20-12 mark overall, while Christopher Newport advances to the semi-final round of this year's championship tournament and improved to 40-2 overall.
In the opening frame, UMass Boston showed no fear against the 2011 national runner-ups. The Beacons peppered the Captains throughout the set and hit a combined .343 to pick-up the 25-22 decision. Unfortunately, UMB would not be able to carry that momentum forward as CNU cruised to a 25-9 win in the second set, a 25-17 win in the third, and a 25-18 decision in the fourth.
The first set victory for the Beacons marks the second time in the last three seasons the Beacons have taken a set in the national quarterfinal round. In 2010, UMB recorded a 25-17 win over Calvin College, who went on to win the national title that year.
Proving to be the driving force for the Captains was their consistent hitting along with a standout showing from Christie Fellows. As a team CNU finished the contest hitting over .299, while Fellows posted an incredible .407 in the match. The Captains also four other players finished with a .300 hitting percentage or better.
For the Beacons, junior hitter Amber Clemons (Simi Valley, Calif.) led UMB with a .312 hitting percentage. Sophomore Kirsten Morrison (North Reading, Mass.) closed out her first trip to the national stage with a team-best 10 kills, while senior Shannon Thompson (Moorpark, Calif.) finished with nine on the night.
Setter Emma Rocha (Boynton Beach, Fla.) tallied 18 assists and a match-best three service aces. Senior libero Kayla Wilson (San Jose, Calif.) and junior Corrine Porter (Huntington Beach, Calif.) put-up nine digs to lead the Beacons defense, with Morrison also posting four block assists at the net.
In the first set UMB would spend most of the set nipping at the heels of the Captains, that was until a key attack error by CNU's Bailey Jensen game UMB a one-point lead (20-19). That error would prove to be the deciding play of the first set, as the Beacons clawed the next five points, with Clemons scoring the set-winning kill to put UMass out-in-front 1-0.
Knowing that this was their match to win, the Beacons returned to the hardwood in the second set. Unfortunately the second set would ultimately set the tone for the final two sets as CNU jumped all over the Beacons and never looked back.
After the very tough second set and with the score tied at 1-1, UMass looked to get that early momentum back, but it proved to be harder than they thought. Christopher Newport would once again jump out to a commanding lead, while limiting all of the Beacons chances. It was not until CNU reached their 24th point that UMass offense began to show signs of life. Along with some attack errors by the Captains, UMB managed to close the deficit to seven, but that rally would come to an end on a Jessie Kolden kill.
The final set saw UMass Boston erase an early CNU run. With the score tied at 6-6, the Beacons began to apply the game-plan that made them so successful in the first set. However anytime UMB built momentum, Christopher Newport responded right back. The two teams did find themselves even on the scoreboard late in the set after UMB tied the match at 16-16 on a CNU attack error.
Unfortunately the Captains would score the next nine points, while holding UMB to just two to secure the victory.
Even with Thursday's tough loss, the Beacons have many great things to look back at on in 2012. Despite the fact they never once played an actual home game in the Clark Gym, UMB still managed to earn a Little East Conference title, their fourth straight and the NCAA Division III New England Regional crown, their second in three years. The Beacons will graduate three senior members in Thompson, who without a doubt is the greatest hitter to ever play at UMass Boston and stands as the program's only three-time AVCA All-America and the first player in the history of UMB to be named a four-time First Team All-Conference selection, as well as being named a three-time LEC Offensive Player of the Year. The Beacons will also lose Wilson and Mirielle Juarez (Los Angeles, Calif.).