Can't Make It To The Big Dance, Watch It Live
Every match at this year's NCAA tournament will be broadcasted free of charge through the Connecticut College Athletics website.
Here They Come Again
For the fourth straight year UMass Boston won their Little East Conference tournament title to earn the conference's automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Regional Tournament. The Beacons, who have become a staple in the regional tournament, are looking to take back the regional crown they won in 2010 under head coach Terry Condon.
During the Condon era, the Beacons are 5-2 in the NCAA Regional tournament, having advanced to the "Elite Eight" of the tournament back in 2010, where they faced Calvin College in the first round. That season, the Beacons also set a program record for wins with 30, while also setting a new low for losses in a season with a mere five.
It Has Been A Very Long Road in 2012
The 2012 campaign was the most challenging schedule ever put together in the history of the Beacons program. This season UMass Boston played seven matches against nationally ranked opponents, while also playing a total of 13 matches against regionally ranked teams (faced Bowdoin College twice).
Despite the very challenging schedule the Beacons did earn key wins over Wellesley College, Gallaudet University, and Trinity College (Conn.). UMass also took the reigning national champs, Wittenberg College to a fourth set during the Emory University Invitational.
On top of facing a slew of tough opponents, the Beacons also did not have a court to call their own this fall, due to the construction in the Clark Athletic Center Gymnasium. UMass Boston, with the exception of two weeks and two matches were forced to practice and play all their "home" matches at variety of different locations.
UMB in the NCAA
Of this year's eight team field, the Beacons will once again be sharing the hardwood with familiar foes Springfield College and Bowdoin College. Last year UMB eliminated Bowdoin in a 3-2 battle before falling to Springfield in the championship. In 2010, the Beacons upended the Pride of Springfield to earn their first regional crown.
This year's field will feature a few new faces to the Beacons, including their opponent on Friday, the Engineers of MIT. Though the two have faced either other during the regular season a combined six times (3-3), this will be the first time the two teams have faced each other in the postseason. MIT will be making their first-ever trip to the "Big Dance" this weekend, after posting a 30-5 mark in 2012.
Another Year, Another List of Accolades
Despite the challenging the Beacons still dominated the Little East Conference Weekly and Postseason Honors. Led by the conference's first and only three-time Offensive Player of the Year in Shannon Thompson (Moorpark, Calif.), a total of five Beacons earned conference postseason honors. Freshman Emma Rocha (Boynton Beach, Fla.) became the fourth-straight Beacon and second setter in program history to earn Rookie of the Year accolades. Thompson along with libero Kayla Wilson (San Jose, Calif.) were named to the First Team, while Corrine Porter (Huntington Beach, Calif.), Kirsten Morrison (North Reading, Mass.), and Rocha were named to the second team. With Thompson's first-team selection, she became the first player in UMass Boston history to ever be named a four-time first-team all-conference honoree.
Looking To This Weekend
If UMass is to be successful this weekend they need to continue to do what has made them dominant over the last four seasons. They need to rely on their quickness and ability to pass the ball heavily if they are to advance to Sunday's championship match.
Playing a major part in the Beacons offense will be Thompson, who looks to close out her college career as a two-time regional champion. This season, Thompson has led the Beacons with her .276 attack percentage and 369 kills (3.80 kpg). She also stands as the top blocker for UMB as well with her 76 total blocks (0.78 bpg). Perhaps the greatest hitter in the history of UMass Boston volleyball Thompson enters this weekend with a slew of program records under her belt, as well as being the only player on this year's squad with four LEC tournament titles.
Also helping to the fuel the offense will be Porter, who finished second on the team with 1.93 kills per game this year. Morrison is another crucial hitter that will need to hit her spots whenever the ball is set in her direction. Freshmen Molly Witzmann (Encinitas, Calif.) and Briana Sousa (Swansea, Mass.) have worked extremely hard at filling the middle of the net, with both amongst the team leaders in blocks.
New Faces Anchoring the Offense
With the loss of All-American setter Cassy Hanneman '12 the Beacons looked Rocha and sophomore Megan Pollock (Wilton, Calif.). Combined the duo have posted 927 assists this season, with Rocha averaged just under six assists per game. At the end line the duo are also two of the Beacons top servers having scored 71 aces respectively.
When the Opposition Has the Ball
Defensively UMass knows they will have to get their blocks down every time the opposition goes for the kill. If the ball gets through it will be on the Beacons backline to keep it up. This season, Wilson has anchored the Beacons defense with her 410 digs, which helped her earn All-Conference accolades. Porter will also need to be at the top of her game this weekend. Going into the tournament she ranks second with 320 digs overall, and is currently just 15 digs to become just the second player in program history to record her 1,000th career dig.
Slowing Down The Engineers
This weekend, the Beacons will have to limit the use of the MIT's big middle hitters in 6'3" Ada Taylor and 6'1" Kristine Bunker. To date the duo are hitting .432 and .371 respectively. Bunker has totaled 255 kills, while Taylor has thrown down 248 of her own. On the other side of the ball Taylor has dominated with her team-best 91 total blocks. Bunker of course is right behind with her 84 rejections.