Volleyball Preview: Beacons Going For Fifth Straight Conference Title This Weekend
BOSTON, Mass. - After closing out the 2013 Little East Conference regular season with their third 7-0 record in program history, the Beacons now have their eyes set on this weekend's conference tournament, which will be held in the Clark Athletic Center Gym this Saturday and Sunday.
The Beacons, who are the number one seed, will face the fourth-seeded Colonials of Western Connecticut State University in the first of two semi-final matches tomorrow afternoon starting at noon. In the second semi-final, which will begin at 3 p.m. the second seeded Owls of Keene State College will take on the third seeded Panthers of Plymouth State University.
The winners of Saturday's matches will face each other on Sunday at noon in the championship match with the winner earning the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Division III tournament.
WHAT'S ON THE LINE: The Beacons are looking to become only the second team in conference tournament history to win five straight championships, with Western Connecticut State University currently holding the record for most consecutive championship victories.
Not only are the Beacons looking to defend their conference title for the fourth straight year, but they are also looking to return to the NCAA Regional tournament in hopes of defending their 2012 title.
ALL-TIME SERIES: In the Little East Conference Tournament UMass Boston currently boasts a record of 13-9 in their 11 total appearances. The Beacons four conference tournament titles is third most in conference history with Eastern Connecticut still a top the record book with seven championships, followed by Western Connecticut's five.
Of the 13 postseason victories, 10 belong to head coach Terry Condon. Looking to lead UMB back to the regional tournament for the fourth time in her career at UMass Boston, Condon has lost only two conference tournament matches going into this weekend.
SCOUTING THE FIELD: This weekend's tournament will truly be a test of who is the top team in the Little East Conference. With the top-4 teams all qualifying for the semi-final round, this year's championship tournament will showcase the best the LEC has to offer.
Behind the Beacons are the Owls of Keene State College as the number two seed. Having ended their season with a 6-1 record, with their only loss coming at the hands of UMB, Keene State will be looking for their second conference title in program history this weekend. The Owls will take on in-state rival in the third seeded Panthers of Plymouth State University. In 2013, the Panthers finished with a record of 5-2 in conference play, having been defeated by the Beacons and the Owls.
The fourth-seeded Colonials of Western Connecticut State University are in the hunt for their first conference championship since 2003. Under second year head coach and 2012 Little East Conference Coach of the Year, Don Ferguson will look to bring his Colonials back to the top but will have a tough road in front of them as they face the Beacons in the first semi-final match.
SCOUTING THE BEACONS: UMass Boston enters this year's conference tournament with a new found intensity and focus. The Beacons had a strong end to their regular season winning three of their last four matches. Included in those victories was a 3-0 win over Plymouth State to clinch their fifth straight and third outright LEC regular season title. They also went on to defeat nationally ranked and the top team in the New England Region in the Hawks of Roger Williams University. At the Vassar College tri-match, UMB nearly pulled out a victory over Wisconsin Oshkosh before blanking Vassar, 3-0.
Going into this weekend's tournament key Beacons players have been honored by both the conference and by the ECAC. To date Julia Murphy (Canton, Mass.), Elizabeth Glavan (Edina, Minn.) and Megan Pollock (Wilton, Calif.) have all been recognized by the Little East Conference Weekly Awards program three times this season. Pollock and Glavan were most recently named ECAC New England Co-Players of the Week for the first time in their careers.
Murphy still remains one of the top hitters in the conference with her .300+ hitting percentage. Glavan sits as the top libero in the Little East averaging nearly six digs per game. Pollock's setting abilities have reach all new heights as she has averaged just under nine assists per game for the entire month of October.
The Beacons will also look to the consistent play of Kirsten Morrison (North Reading, Mass.) and Patsy Boland (Chicago, Ill.). Corrine Porter (Huntington Beach, Calif.) will be another key in the Beacons back row, while Bri Sousa's (Swansea, Mass.) blocking will have to be on full display if the Beacons are to be successful this weekend.
KEY TO THE MATCH: For the Beacons to be successful in this year's tournament they must continue to play their game. On top of that they must continue to serve tough to keep the teams they guessing. The final thing is that they must prevent runs. Anytime the Beacons have the ball on their side of the net they must put it away to limit any momentum building by their rival.