Nov. 13, 2010

Courtesy of Umass-Boston

- Sophomore middle hitter Shannon Thompson (Moorpark, CA) registered a match-high 22 kills to go along with 16 digs and eight total blocks to lift the University of Massachusetts Boston volleyball team past Middlebury College, 3-1 (20-25, 25-19, 25-19, 29-27), Saturday afternoon in the second round of the 2010 NCAA Division III women's volleyball tournament at Blake Arena on the campus of Springfield College. The Beacons, who received 39 votes and are ranked 24th in the country in the most recent Division III American Volleyball Coaches Association national poll, improve to 29-4 on the year and advance to the Sweet 16 round for the first time in program history. The loss drops the Panthers to 25-6, ending the NESCAC New England Small College Athletic Conference champion's season.

UMass Boston jumped ahead 9-6 in the first set after two aces by freshman outside hitter Amber Clemons (Simi Valley, CA) forcing Middlebury to take their first timeout of the afternoon. The Panthers answered, scoring three straight points to even the set at 9-9 behind the service of sophomore right-side Julia Gibbs (Houston, TX). Both teams continued to trade points as the set was locked at 11-11, 13-13, and 17-17 before the Panthers took control of the frame and closed out on an 8-3 run capped by a kill by freshman middle hitter Megan Jarchow (Cos Cob, CT) to give Middlebury the 25-20 first set win. The Beacons came out of the gates in the second set quickly, racing ahead to a 3-0 lead behind junior setter Cassy Hanneman's (Denver, CO) service. A Panther ball handling error made it 7-2, UMass Boston, before the visitors called a timeout to try and stop the rally but the Beacons continued to push, extending their lead to 14-7 on a kill by sophomore outside hitter Ariel Aizenstadt (Mission Viejo, CA). A kill by junior middle hitter Elissa Goeke (Chevy Chase, MD) cut the UMass Boston lead to 20-14 but it was the closest the Panthers would get as freshman outside hitter Corrine Porter (Huntington Beach, CA) slammed home the final two kills of the set to lift UMass Boston to the 25-19 victory and even the match, 1-1. Behind the service of sophomore libero Bethany Rossoll (Colorado Springs, CO) the Beacons took a quick 2-0 in the third set before Middlebury answer with three straight points to take a 3-2 lead . The squads continued to trade points all the way to an 11-11 score before UMass Boston took control of the set for good, rattling off four consecutive points to jump ahead 15-11. Junior middle hitter Molly Rattigan (Dorchester, MA) helped the Beacons finish the set, collecting four kills down the stretch to lift the home squad to another 25-20 set win, giving UMass Boston a 2-1 edge in the match. Rattigan was perfect in the third set, connecting for six kills on six attempts. The Panthers came out firing in the fourth set, collecting an early 9-4 lead forcing the Beacons to call a timeout and regroup. Out of the timeout, the squads traded points to make it 10-5, Middlebury, before UMass Boston rattled off five straight points behind Clemon's service to get back in the match and even the score at 10-10. From that point on, neither team would take more than a two point lead in a back-and-forth final set. There were 16 ties in the frame including scores down the stretch of 12-12, 13-13, 14-14, 16-16, 17-17, 18-18, 21-21 and 22-22. A solo block by Rattigan gave the Beacons a 23-22 advantage and Porter followed it up with a kill to give UMass Boston its first match-point of the game but the Panthers responded with a kill by Gibbs to cut the lead to 24-23. A Beacon hitting error locked the score at 24-24 before both teams committed errors to knot the set at 25-25. Middlebury took its first lead of the set since a 17-16 score on a kill by Goeke to make it 26-25 and put the Panthers one point away from evening the match at 2-2 but Thompson answered with a kill to square the frame at 26-26. Following a Middlebury hitting error the Beacons had another match-point but could not convert as junior outside hitter Jane Handel (Evanston, IL) registered a kill to deadlock the set at 27-27. Thompson recorded her final kill of the afternoon to make it 28-27, UMass Boston, before she ended the match with a solo block to send the Beacons to their first ever NCAA Sweet 16 appearance.

Rattigan finished the match with 11 kills on a gaudy hitting clip of .500 percent from the field to go along with a match-high of six block assists. Porter chipped in with 10 digs and eight kills while Clemons was also strong on the outside with seven kills, seven digs and three service aces. Hanneman and sophomore setter Frana Burtness-Adams (Fairbanks, AK) had almost identical lines, each registering 24 assists and a kill while Burtness-Adams contributed with 12 digs and Hanneman notched 11. Rossoll also recorded double-digit digs, notching 14 in the win. It was only the second time all season that five Beacons recorded 10 or more digs in a match.

For Middlebury, Gibbs finished the match with a team-high 15 kills and nine digs while Handel added 14 kills and 17 digs. Senior middle hitter Whitney Bean (Waukee, IA) contributed with 11 kills to help pace the Panther offensive effort. Senior setter Lauren Barrett (Medfield, MA) dished out a match-high 44 assists while also collecting 12 digs on the match. Sophomore defensive specialist Caitlin Barrett (Medfield, MA) played well in the back row for the Panthers, recording a match-high 25 digs in a phenomenal defensive effort.

UMass Boston advances to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA tournament for first time in program history. They will face the winner of the Amherst College vs. Springfield College match up tomorrow, Sunday, November 14 at 4:00 p.m. in Blake Arena. The Beacons are now one win away from tying their program record of 30 wins set last season.