Volleyball Rallies to Down Keene State in Conference Opener

BOSTON, Mass. – Trailing two games to zero, volleyball dug deeper than they have all season to win three straight games, including a back-and-forth fifth game to defeat the Owls of Keene State College by the final of 3-2 Wednesday evening in the Clark Athletic Center Gymnasium in the Little East Conference opener for both teams.

The victory ended a two-game skid for UMB and extended their win-streak over the Owls to eight consecutive matches dating back to the 2009 season.  Wednesday's match also marked the first time the Beacons have stepped on their home court since the 2011 campaign.  Last season the Beacons were road warriors due to a major renovation that did not allow them to compete in the Clark.

From the start, Wednesday's match was a nail biter with the Owls pulling out a 32-20 win in the first game.  They then snuck out a 25-23 win to take a 2-0 lead on the scoreboard.  With the momentum heavily in favor of the visitors, UMB knew they had to play the best volleyball they have played all season.

What could have been the deciding third game saw the Beacons jump out to an early lead which they rode all the way to the end.  They were also able to hold off late push by Keene State to take a slim 25-22 win. 

Now with things starting to shift in favor of the home squad, the Beacons erupted in the fourth game and used a combined .579 hitting percentage to cruise to a 25-13 decision forcing game five.

In the early on goings it was all Keene State on the scoreboard, with the Beacons barely able to hold on.  However that would all change on some key kills by UMB's front row, which included Patsy Boland (Chicago, Ill.), Kirsten Morrison (North Reading, Mass.), and Julia Murphy (Canton, Mass.).  All three players finished with 12 or more kills and hit over .370 on the night.  Also scoring a game changing kill was freshman hitter Pepper Baker (Tallahassee, Fla.).  

Once the Beacons were able to take the lead in the later part of the game the UMB coaching staff turned to freshman libero Kimie Taketa (Torrance, Calif.) and her very dangerous serve.  When she entered the match the Beacons led 13-12, but that quickly changed when the 5-3 freshman stepped behind the baseline.    

On the first serve, the Owls were able to find Cat Kazazian, but she was quickly stopped by the blocking duo of Molly Witzmann (Encinitas, Calif.) and Boland making it 14-12 in favor the Beacons.  With the Beacons chomping at the bit know that they were just one point away from completing the huge comeback, Taketa stepped back behind the baseline for the final time.  The California native threw the ball up and hit it perfectly over the net catching the Owls front row off guard giving her an ace and the win for the Beacons.

For the Beacons "big three" in Murphy, Morrison and Boland, it was Boland who led the match with 19 kills and finished second on the night with a .400 hitting percentage.  Murphy was also a force to reckoned with as she recorded a career-high .609 hitting percentage while also throwing down a career-best 16 kills.  Morrison posted 12 kills and .370 hitting percentage to cap off the huge night for the Black and Blue.

Emma Rocha (Boynton Beach, Fla.) led the night with 33 assists and six aces.  Senior Megan Pollock (Wilton, Calif.) took over as the Beacons second setter and finished with 25 assists, while also picking up eight digs.  Elizabeth Glavan (Edina, Minn.) was the anchor in the Beacons backcourt with her 27 digs, and a combined 56 service receptions, both of which were career bests for the freshman.

Senior Corrine Porter (Huntington Beach, Calif.) also had a solid night finishing with 16 digs and seven kills and played a major part in the fifth game victory.  At the net Morrison and Witzmann led the Beacons with two solo blocks and three block assists each.  On the night the Beacons defense finished with six solo stops and combined for 12 block assists.

For the Owls, Samantha Branning finished with a team-best 12 kills, followed by Angela Silveri who had 10.  Madeline Nossif dropped in nine kills of her own and finished with a team high .292 hitting percentage.  Brooke Bell tallied 19 of the Owls 40 assist, while Silveri and Kaitlin Boyer each recorded 14 digs.  At the net Nossif finished with one solo block and five block assists.   

Volleyball returns to action next Friday when they travel to New York City for the two-day NYU Invitational.  On Friday, the Beacons will face RIT at 2 p.m., followed a 4 p.m. match with SUNY New Paltz.