Smolinski
SC

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Top-seeded Springfield defeated second-seeded UMass-Boston in four sets to claim the 2011 NCAA Division III regional championship on Sunday afternoon. After winning by the scores of 25-17, 28-26, 21-25, 25-22, Springfield advances to the national quarterfinals in St. Louis.

Sophomore Tessa Smolinski was dominant once again as she posted 18 kills at a .432 clip en route to being named the regional's Most Outstanding Player. Teammate Lauren Torvi also earned all-tournament team honors after tallying 14 kills and five blocks. Freshman Melissa McLaughlin had the best match of her young career with 10 kills on a .348 hitting percentage while Itza Nieves put forth another incredible defensive effort with a match-high 27 digs, while Mary Consol tallied a match-high six blocks.

For the Beacons, all-tournament honoree Shannon Thompson led the way with 18 kills and 14 digs, while Molly Rattigan added 11 kills and Cassy Hanneman posted a match-best 49 assists and 18 digs. Brooke Nemethy recorded 10 kills and 14 digs.

The Pride couldn’t have asked for a better start to the match as it hit .471 in the opening frame. With the score 8-7 in favor of Springfield early on, a Torvi kill ignited a 5-0 run that put the Pride up 13-7. Springfield pushed the lead to 23-13 off of Smolinski’s service ace before the Beacons used a quick burst to get back into the set at 23-17. Two UMass-Boston attack errors ended the rally and gave Springfield the first set 25-17.

In the second set, the Beacons jumped out to a 10-7 lead following a Springfield service error. The Pride battled back midway through the set and used a Smolinski kill to cap off a 4-0 run that turned an 18-16 deficit into a 20-18 lead. Giaquinto connected on a kill to give the Pride set point at 24-21, only to have UMass-Boston storm back and take a 25-24 lead after Kayla Wilson’s serve painted the back line. The Pride fought off two match points behind the play of Torvi as she sandwiched a pair of kills around a huge solo block as the hosts took set two 27-25 .

The third set featured 13 ties, the last of which came at 20-20. A kill from Thompson and a Springfield attack error provided the Beacons with the two point cushion it would need to force a fourth set. Smolinski brought the Pride within one on her 15th kill of the match, but a service error coupled with a double block from Rattigan and Thompson and a Thompson kill closed out the set for UMass-Boston 25-21.

Both teams hit well in the frame, with UMass-Boston holding a slight edge .368 to Springfield’s .345 .

The Beacons kept their momentum going into the fourth set, leading 10-7 early on and 17-14 midway through. A Smolinski kill and two Beacon attack errors helped the Pride pull even at 17 and forced a UMass-Boston timeout.

Springfield got its first lead of the set at 19-18, but a Beacon run put them up 22-20 before Springfield head coach Moira Long called a timeout for the Pride. Springfield came out after the break with Torvi and Smolinski registering kills and swinging the momentum back in the hosts’ favor. Torvi gave the hosts match point with an thunderous solo block and a Beacon attack error handed the Pride the title.