BOSTON, Mass. – After pulling off one of the most surprising championship runs in program history UMass Boston will be heading to Holland, Michigan to take on the Captains of Christopher Newport University on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. on the campus of Hope College.
A live video feed will be available for every match in this year's tournament as well as a live stats feed. Both links can be accessed through the tournament's home page at http://www.hope.edu/pr/athletics/vbchampionship/index.html. Fans can also follow all the action via twitter at @UMassBeacons.
The Beacons will be making their second trip to the national stage under head coach Terry Condon. UMass made their first appearance in the national tournament back in 2010, after handing Springfield College a 3-2 loss in the regional championship. That year the Beacons faced top-seeded and eventual national champions Calvin College in the opening round of the tournament. The Beacons enter this year's national tournament with a 20-11 record overall.
IN CASE YOU FORGOT ALREADY HOW THEY GOT HERE
The Beacons secured their second trip to the national tournament following a thrilling 3-2 win over Bowdoin College yesterday afternoon at Connecticut College. Definitely the underdog throughout the 2012 regional tournament, the Beacons toppled first-time tournament participant MIT on Friday by the final of 3-1. They then knocked off the top-seed Camels of Connecticut College in a nail-biter of a match. UMass would steal the 3-2 win from the host Camels to advance to their third straight championship match.
In Sunday's showdown the Beacons faced the Polar Bears of Bowdoin College and after going set-for-set, UMass would shock the entire New England region by defeating the favorite Polar Bears by the final of 3-2. UMass Boston now holds an 8-2 record in NCAA Regional Tournament play.
WE MEET AGAIN
This Thursday's match will mark only the second time that UMass and Christopher Newport have faced each other. Their first match took place earlier this year when the Captains competed in the Beacons Invitational.
In their first-ever meeting UMass saw senior Shannon Thompson (Moorpark, Calif.) finish with a match-high 15 kills. Corrine Porter (Huntington Beach, Calif.) and Kayla Wilson (San Jose, Calif.) finished with 15 and 10 digs respectively.
For the Captains they were led by All-American middle Bailey Jensen who finished with eight kills and two block assists. Cory Harris and Jessie Kolden also led CNU to the win combining for 19 kills respectively. Setter Alyssa Kidd was solid all contest with her 29 assists, while defensive specialist Abby Hogge totaled a match-high 25 digs.
IT HAS BEEN A LONG HARD ROAD FOR UMB
To say the 2012 season was the most challenging schedule ever assembled would be an understatement. This season UMass faced a slew of nationally and regionally ranked opponents. Amongst the teams they faced, especially in the month of October were CNU, Emory University, Wittenberg College, Washington and Lee University and Bowdoin. Still with all the challenges put in front of them the Beacons managed to keep fighting with their efforts paying off in the form of a LEC regular season and tournament title and of course the regional championship as well.
UMB DOMINATES THE LEC
For the fourth straight season UMass Boston dominated the Little East Conference. Even with a small hiccup towards the end of the regular season, the Beacons knew they were the top team in the conference. After posting a 6-1 record overall, UMB earned the top-seed in the conference tournament, and despite not playing on their home court defeated both Rhode Island College (3-0) and Keene State College (3-1) in dominant fashion.
Once the season was over, Thompson was once again crowned the LEC's top offensive player, becoming the first player in the history of the LEC to be named Rookie of the Year and then three-time Offensive Player of the Year. She also became the first player in school history to be named a four-time First Team All-Conference selection. Setter Emma Rocha became the fourth consecutive player to earn Rookie of the Year honors as well as finding a spot on the Second Team All-Conference.
Wilson earned First Team honors alongside Thompson, while Porter and Kirsten Morrison (North Reading, Mass.) each earned a spot on the Second Team.
THE X'S AND O'S OF UMB
Throughout the 2012 season the Beacons have looked to Thompson to lead their offense. Going into the national tournament, the California native sits first on the team in total kills with 427, kills per game with 3.85 and currently boasts a .278 attack percentage. Her 92 blocks leads the Beacons defensive effort, with 19 of those marked down as solo blocks. The all-time leader at UMass Boston in multiple categories, Thompson remains the only player in program history to be named a three-time AVCA All-American.
Also helping to anchor the Beacons offense and defense has been Porter. To date, the junior hitter sits second on the team with 210 kills (1.89 kpg) and is second in digs with 372 (3.35 dps). During the NCAA regional tournament, Porter became on the only third player in program history to surpass the 1,000 dig mark and currently sits just 73 digs from thing the first player to break the 1,000 point dig mark in Megan MacAuley (1,110 career digs). Thompson currently stands as the all-time leader in digs with 1,202.
SETTING UP THE BEACONS OFFENSE
This season head coach Terry Condon has looked to a pair of setters to fill the hole left by All-American Cassy Hanneman '12. The young duo of Rocha and Megan Pollock (Wilton, Calif.) have worked tirelessly throughout the year. Rocha currently leads the Beacons with 650 assists (5.70 apg), while Pollock currently stands with 416 assists (3.68 apg) this season.
IN THE BACK COURT AND AT THE NET
Defensively the Beacons have relied heavily on both Wilson and Porter to get the crucial digs this season. Wilson, who earned All-Tournament honors this past weekend, leads the squad with 473 digs. At the net it has been Thompson, Molly Witzmann (Encinitas, Calif.) and Morrison who have earned a majority of UMB's blocks. Morrison sits second on the team with 67 rejections, while Witzmann is in third with 64. Junior Amber Clemons (Simi Valley, Calif.) has also helped the Beacons at the net with 32 blocks.
SCOUTING THE CAPTAINS
On Sunday, Christopher Newport defeated Emory University to earn their fourth straight NCAA Regional title. The Captains were pushed to the limit in what was a back-and-forth five set marathon.
Four different Captains finished in double-figures in kills with Jensen leading the way with a team-best 17. She also posted a match-best .412 hitting percentage to fuel CNU's offense. Christie Fellows and Kolden finished second on the team with 14 kills each, while Chastity Lacy finished with 10. Kidd tallied match-high 52 assists. Hogge dominated the digs column tallying 22 in the win. As a team, CNU finished with two solo blocks and 12 block assists.
Christopher Newport is no stranger to competing at the national stage as they advanced to the championship match last season, before falling to Wittenberg by the final of 3-0. The Captains enter this year's tournament with a 39-2 record overall. Their 39 victories marks the most of any team competing in Michigan this week, while their two losses are second fewest only to St. Thomas University (MN) who enters this year's tournament with a 37-1 record.