BOSTON, Mass. - Winners of their last three matches to conclude the regular season, revenge will be on the mind of the Keene State College volleyball team as they travel to Boston for the second time in the last 10 days looking for a better result this time around against UMass-Boston when the Little East Conference tournament begins this evening with the quarterfinal round. This meeting also marks the third consecutive year these two teams will clash in the LEC postseason, with KSC scoring a 3-1 upset victory last season in the semifinals at Eastern Connecticut State University's Geissler Gymnasium.
Keene State enters carrying a 23-8 record, including a 5-3 conference mark. The Owls tied with UMass-Boston (9-18 overall), who also finished with the same league record, but KSC fell to the No. 5 seed as a result of their head-to-head loss.
Keene State head coach Bob Weiner is 328-183 (.642) and in his 15th season with the Owls. He also has an overall career mark of 569-451 and has led KSC to eight Little East Conference finals appearances. The Owls took home the title in 2008 with a thrilling five-set home victory over UMass-Boston. The Beacons are led by interim head coach Kate Carlson, a 2010 graduate and former standout volleyball player at the school, who is in her first season. She was a two-time First Team All-Little East selection and First Team All-Region as a player, and helped UMB to their first conference title in 2009.
The Owls have leaned on sophomore Ali McLoughlin (330 kills, .246 pct.) and junior Megan Palmer (238 kills, .183 pct.) to guide their offense this season, with McLoughlin notching 18 double-digit kill matches on her way to the team-best total. Overall, KSC has six players with over 100 kills, including freshman Sydney Johnson, who has been on a tear recently, combining for 52 kills against just 11 errors in her last five matches. In that span, she has also recorded 78 digs and nine total blocks. Senior Bailey Wilson has run the offense to a tune of 963 assists, another top ten single season total in school history, while classmate Olivia Mathieu has changed roles and been a force defensively, racking up 632 digs this season to run her career total to 1,280, which is fifth on the all-time KSC list in that category. Mathieu also ranks in the top 15 in the country in digs this season. As a team, Keene State leads the conference in both total digs (also 27th nationally) and digs per set (14th nationally). The Owls have hit at a .208 clip this season.
Senior Sarah Doyle spears the UMass-Boston attack, as she leads the team with 183 kills while also totalling 77 blocks, tops in the league, on the season. She is followed closely by sophomore Marcelle Tiscareno, who has 177 kills on .298 hitting. Junior Tyla Parker is far and away the Beacons' leader in digs with 379, while fellow classmate Carsen Komminsk has 668 assists. As a team, the Beacons have hit .136 so far in 2019.
The Earlier Matchup
As mentioned, the Beacons took the regular season meeting 3-0 (25-22, 25-18, 25-23) just 10 days ago, on October 26 at the Clark Athletic Center. Keene State could not hold onto leads of 17-11 and 18-14 in the opening set and wound up falling despite outhitting the Beacons .189 to .184 and recording 21 more digs (79-58). Johnson had 10 kills, 10 digs and two block assists for the Owls, while Mathieu finished with 26 digs and two assists. Wilson had a 32 assist, nine dig effort. Emilyann Ashford and McLoughlin had nine kills each, but it was not enough, as UMass-Boston finished with eight more service aces (10-2). For the Beacons, Tiscareno (12) and Doyle (11) each had double-digit kills, with the former adding three solo blocks and three aces. Komminsk had 32 assists and 21 digs.
The Rest of the Tournament
The winner of this matchup will travel to take on top-seeded Western Connecticut State University, who emerged from a three-way tie for the top spot, on Thursday, November 7. No. 2 seed Eastern Connecticut, who also received a bye to Thursday's semifinals, will await the winner of the other quarterfinal matchup between 3rd-seeded Plymouth State University and No. 6 seed University of Southern Maine. The two semifinal winners will meet in the Little East tournament championship on Saturday (November 9), with the winner receiving the league's automatic berth to the NCAA tournament. All games in the conference tournament will be played at the higher seed.