Despite Hurdles, Beacons Volleyball Team Matches Best-Ever Finish
November 21, 2012
Emma Rocha, a freshman biology/pre-med major at University of Massachusetts Boston, didn’t have to wait long to take part in her first NCAA national tournament. The Beacons volleyball team won their second NCAA regional title by besting Bowdoin College 3-2 on November 11, and for the second time in three years, the team advanced to the Elite Eight.
“There is no better feeling than knowing that we accomplished our goal and that we were going to Michigan [for the quarterfinals],” Rocha said. “The fans were absolutely amazing and I really believe that we wouldn't have been able to win it without them. They kept us going when the going got rough during the fifth game.”
Junior Amber Clemons, a psychology and sociology major, from Simi Valley, Calif., said the win was made sweeter by the fact that the Beacons had dropped two games to Bowdoin during the regular season, 3-1 and 3-0.
“Having played Bowdoin twice only gave us a better sense of how they worked as a team and helped us in their defeat. Knowing that we had won the championship game and were headed to the national tournament for the second time in my career here was almost overwhelming,” Clemons said.
Head Coach Terry Condon said the regional title was the highlight of the Beacons’ 2012 season.
“When that last point hit the floor, I had to step back and take in the moment because all season long I knew we had it in us to be champions,” Condon said.
Condon, in her eighth season at UMass Boston, points to the first game in the NCAA regional tournament, against MIT, as her proudest moment as a coach this year. MIT had a 30-5 record going into the tournament, while the Beacons were 17-11.
“Going into the tournament I knew we had a chance to pull out the win, but in that match we played perhaps our best match of the season. MIT was definitely the favorite going in, but once the match started we took control early with our passing. We were able to move the ball around and keep MIT guessing,” Condon said.
The Beacons beat the Engineers, 3-1, then defeated host Connecticut College 3-2 before facing Bowdoin. The team ended its season on November 15, losing 3-1 to Christopher Newport University in the NCAA quarterfinals. UMass Boston won one set in the Elite Eight, matching their performance in the 2010 NCAA tournament, which was the best in program history.
UMass Boston finished the season with a 20-12 record, its fourth Little East Conference championship, and several individual honors.
Senior Shannon Thompson of Moorpark, Calif. was named the Little East Conference’s Offensive Player of the Year for the third straight year. Senior Kayla Wilson of San Jose, Calif. was named to the First Team All-Conference Team along with Thompson. Corinne Porter of Huntington Beach, Calif., Kirsten Morrison of North Reading, and Rocha, a native of Boynton Beach, Fla., were selected for the Second Team All-Conference Team. Rocha was also named the conference’s Rookie of the Year, and thinks the team has a shot at another conference championship next year.
“I have no doubt in my mind that we will remain conference champs as long as we work as hard as we did this year,” Rocha said. “Yes, we won't have Shannon Thompson or Kayla Wilson running both our defense and offense, but after overcoming so much adversity this year, I definitely think we can do it all over again.”
This year’s Beacons, which entered the season ranked No. 16 out of 485 squads, had the most challenging schedule in the history of the program, facing 7 nationally ranked opponents and 13 regionally ranked teams. Because of ongoing renovations to the Clark Athletic Center Gym, the team was also without its home court.
“The entire fall was extremely difficult, from not having a home court, to playing some of the top teams in the country, but when we hoisted the trophy I knew that everything we had gone through this season was worth it,” Condon said.