BOSTON, Mass. – After a very challenging 2012 regular season, the Beacons have once again found themselves atop the conference standings for the fourth straight year and will play host to the Little East Conference tournament this Saturday and Sunday. UMass Boston, who earned their fourth regular season title, third outright, this fall now have their eyes set on their fourth straight conference tournament title under head coach Terry Condon.
During the 2012 campaign UMass has played the most challenging schedule in the history of the program, and perhaps one of the toughest in the country. Featured on this year's schedule were seven matches against nationally ranked opponents, and 13 matches against regionally ranked teams.
This weekend the Beacons will face the fifth-seeded Anchorwomen of Rhode Island College in Saturday's semi-final match. If victorious, the Beacons will then face the winner of #2 Western Connecticut State University/#3 Keene State College, with the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament on the line. Start time for UMB's match is set for noon, with the championship match on Sunday, also slated for a noon start.
Despite the heavy load the Beacons took every match in stride, and showed tremendous growth throughout the season. Led by three-time All-American Shannon Thompson (Moorpark, Calif.) UMass dominated conference play defeating all but one opponent. Thompson, who has cemented herself as perhaps the greatest hitter in program history leads the Beacons going into this weekend with a .275 attack percentage and a combined 341 kills (.379 kpg). The senior has also been dominant at the net as she leads UMB in both solo blocks with 12 and block assists with 52.
Also fueling UMass' offense this season has been two-time All-Conference selection Corrine Porter (Huntington Beach, Calif.) and reigning LEC Rookie of the Year Kirsten Morrison (North Reading, Mass.). To date the duo have combined for 315 kills and have played a major part in UMass Boston's 11.44 kills per game. Junior Amber Clemons (Simi Valley, Calif.) has also made a major impact in 2012 as she ranks second on the team with a .237 hitting percentage and is currently averaged 1.43 kills per set.
Perhaps one of the Beacons biggest holes to fill this season came with the graduation of All-American setter Cassy Hanneman '12. However freshman Emma Rocha (Boynton Beach, Fla.) and sophomore Megan Pollock (Wilton, Calif.) have worked tirelessly to keep the Beacons offensive dominance going. Rocha, who was named a two-time Little East Conference Rookie of the Week this year enters the tournament with 514 assists (5.53 apg), while Pollock boasts a combined 345 assists (3.75 apg).
Defensively the Beacons have relied heavily on senior libero Kayla Wilson (San Jose, Calif.). The two-year member has posted a combined 390 digs, which ranks second in the conference. Earlier this season, Wilson nabbed her first LEC Defensive Player of the Week honor after leading the Beacons to three-straight wins, two of which were over conference opponents.
Along with Wilson the Beacons have also looked to 6'0" Morrison and 6'1" Molly Witzmann (Encinitas, Calif.) to anchor their defense. At the net Morrison and Witzmann have tallied 55 and 53 total blocks respectively. Freshman Brianna Sousa (Swansea, Mass.) who had a breakout match against regionally ranked Wellesley College sits fourth on the team in blocks with 52. The native Swansea set the program match record for block assists with 11 against Wellesley back on September 28, which also earned her LEC Rookie of the Week accolades.
If the Beacons walk away with the conference title this weekend, they will rank second all-time alongside Eastern Connecticut State (1998, 2005-07). Western Connecticut State still holds the record for most conference championships with five (1999-2003). The winner of this weekend's tournament will also receive the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Regional tournament, which is scheduled to begin next Thursday.