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UMass Boston Advances To National Championship Round

UMass Boston Advances To National Championship Round

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. - Sophomore middle hitter Shannon Thompson (Moorpark, Calif.) recorded a monster double-double with match-highs in both kills (25) and digs (18) to lead the University of Massachusetts Boston volleyball team over Springfield College, 3-2 (25-16, 18-25, 25-21, 25-27, 15-11), Sunday afternoon in the Sweet 16 round of the 2010 NCAA Division III women's volleyball tournament to capture the New England Regional Championship at Blake Arena on the campus of Springfield College.

The Beacons, who received 39 votes and are ranked 24th in the country in the most recent Division III American Volleyball Coaches Association national poll, improve to 30-4 on the year to match the program record in wins set last season, and advance to the Elite-8 for the first time in program history. The loss drops the Pride to 31-5, ending their 2010 campaign.

The Beacons jumped out to an early 6-2 lead in the first set after an overpass kill by sophomore middle hitter Alexa Sullivan (South Dennis, Mass.) forced Springfield's first timeout. The Pride was able to respond with a run of its own, closing the gap to 11-10 on a kill in transition be senior middle hitter Sarah Lang-Rodean (Mansfield Center, Conn.). UMass Boston, in turn, called a timeout of its own to try to halt the Springfield momentum, however, SC kept coming after play resumed, gaining their first lead of the set, 14-13, on a Lang-Rodean service ace in the corner. With the set knotted at 16 all, Porter led the visitors' one a 9-0 run as UMB took the opening set, 25-16. The first-year totaled five service aces in the opening frame to set the tone early.

In the second set, the Pride started out hot, sprinting to a 5-1 early lead on a back row kill from junior opposite hitter Kim Giaquinto (Massapequa, N.Y.). The Beacons rallied to tie the score at 10 apiece before back-to-back Springfield kills made it 12-10 as freshman outside hitter Tessa Smolinski's (Hebron, Conn.) back-row kill and senior outside hitter Heather Lively (Royalston, Mass.) notched an overpass kill forcing UMass Boston to call for time. Springfield stretched the lead to 15-11 on an ace from junior libero Meaghan Hart (Stony Brook, N.Y.), and got to 19-13 on a kill from senior setter Kelsea Hellyar (Fairhaven, Mass.). UMass Boston got within five at 23-18 following a ball handling error by the Pride, but SC scored the final two points of the set, capped off by Giaquinto's cross-court kill, evening the match at one game apiece.

The third set saw back and forth play throughout with eight ties and five lead changes. Trailing 8-6, UMass Boston went on a three-point spurt and took a 9-8 lead after a kill by freshman outside hitter Corrine Porter (Huntington Beach, Calif.). Springfield battled back to regain the lead at 14-12, but the Beacons used another three point run to go back up 15-14, taking the lead on a Porter ace. Hellyar notched a solo block to tie the set at 16 all, but UMass Boston went up 18-16 after a Pride blocking error and a kill by freshman outside hitter Amber Clemons (Simi Valley, Calif.). The Pride got to within 20-19 on a Lively kill, but a service error halted their momentum. The Pride managed two more points in the set, but it was not enough as a service error brought the Beacons within one set of victory.

In the pivotal fourth set, Springfield raced out to a 8-2 lead. The Pride took advantage of four Beacon attack errors coupled with two aces by Giaquinto. Springfield maintained a 12-6 lead after a solo block by junior middle hitter Lauren Torvi (North Smithfield, R.I.). UMass Boston responded with four straight points, off three kills and an ace from Thompson, forcing a Springfield timeout. Another Thompson kill brought the Beacons within one at 16-15, but Springfield responded by rattling off three of the next four points, taking a 19-16 lead, and forcing a UMass Boston timeout. Springfield appeared in control of the set at 23-20 after a Torvi kill, however, back to back Pride attack errors brought the score to 23-22 and led to Coach Dearing calling timeout. The Beacons would go on to tie the game before the teams would trade side outs to make it 25-25. Lively gave the Pride game point at 26-25, and sophomore outside hitter Cassie Seymour (Sebastopol, Calif.) sent the match into a fifth game with an ace into the deep right corner.

In the fifth and final set, UMass Boston opened up a 6-3 lead after another Thompson kill, which forced Springfield to call timeout. Heading into the switch, Thompson produced another kill out of the middle, giving the Beacons an 8-4 advantage. The Pride then went on a 4-1 run, pulling to within one at 9-8, and forcing the Beacons to call a timeout but out of the stoppage they extended the lead to 14-9 and championship point on a block assist by Clemons and Sullivan. The Pride were able to tack on two points before Thompson slammed home the game-winning kill to seal the 15-11 fifth set win, securing the 3-2 match and a trip to Washington University in St. Louis, MO for the 2010 NCAA Division III Women's Volleyball Championship weekend.

Thompson was the difference in the match as she pounded out a match-high 25 kills to go along with 18 digs. Porter, a fellow All-Tournament team selection, also had a standout performance with 13 kills, 12 digs, and seven service aces. The Beacons also received 10 kills apiece from Sullivan and junior middle hitter Molly Rattigan (Dorchester, MA). Sophomore libero Bethany Rossoll (Colorado Springs, Colo.) was credited with 17 digs in the win. Junior setter Cassy Hanneman (Denver, Colo.) and sophomore setter Frana Burtness-Adams (Fairbanks, AK) combined for 50 assists. "Needless to say, Shannon really played well tonight," said UMass Boston head coach Terry Condon. "Shannon was Shannon, and I'm not sure I could say it any better than that. But so did Corrine, she played well. We really blocked well as a team. Overall, it was just a great match. Both teams played well, and it really could have gone either way."

For the Pride, both Sarah Lang-Rodean and Tessa Smolinski were named to the All-Tournament Team after registering 13 kills on the night. Smolinski finished the night with a team-best 17 digs, while both Meaghan Hart and Itza Nieves posted 13 digs. Heather Lively posted 13 kills and Kelsea Hellyar handed out 44 assists. Lauren Torvi was also responsible for eight kills and four blocks.

"It was exactly what I expected. I expected a battle, and that's just what we got," described Springfield College head coach Joel Dearing. "The Springfield, Mass. regional has a very worthy champion in UMass Boston. I really like their style. We're two teams that take the same approach. We are both very aggressive. It's a fun way to play, and a fun way to coach. I couldn't be more proud of this regional, this tournament, our seniors, and our entire staff. We got what we wanted in almost every way. We played as hard as we could for as long as we could. We wish UMass Boston all the luck in the world out in St. Louis."

The Beacons will return to action in an Elite-8 match up on Friday, November 19 when they face Calvin College at 4:00 p.m. in the Washington University Field House in St. Louis, MO. Calvin defeated Wittenberg, 3-1, in the Springfield, OH regional to advance to the Elite-8. The meeting will be the first between the two programs. For more information about the Elite-8 pairings, check out the 2010 NCAA Division III Women's Volleyball interactive bracket online.