BOSTON, Mass. - The fifth-seeded Keene State College volleyball team used a big surge late to take the opening set, but wound up dropping the next three and lost to fourth-seeded UMass-Boston 3-1 (25-21, 15-25, 17-25, 23-25) in the Little East Conference tournament quarterfinals at the Clark Athletic Center Tuesday night.
- Keene State: 23-9
- UMass-Boston: 10-18
How It Happened
The Owls outhit the Beacons by a wide .268 to .111 margin in taking the opening set, but then were outhit by over .100 in each of the next three sets and saw their season end in the Little East quarterfinal round for the first time since 2016. KSC had made the conference title game in each of the past two years. Ali McLoughlin led the offense with 12 kills on .281 hitting, while also recording eight digs and a block assist. Emilyann Ashford also reached double-digits with 10 kills. Olivia Mathieu finished with 27 more digs to add to her final total, while Bailey Wilson piled up 35 assists, 13 digs and a service ace. Emilia Czapiewska (15), Aleks Qose (13), Sarah Doyle (11), and Marcelle Tiscareno (11) all reached double-digit spikes for UMass-Boston, who hit .261 overall to KSC's .161. Tyla Parker had 27 digs for the hosts and Carsen Komminsk 47 assists.
The Beacons ran off a 6-1 run early in the first set and seemed to be in control with a 10-5 advantage, but KSC fought back, tying the set at 15 on Ashford's kill before going ahead for the first time on a spike from Sydney Johnson. Overall, a 9-2 surge helped the visitors turn a 13-9 deficit into a 17-15 lead. A team block kept UMass-Boston down just one a moment later, but KSC did not slow down, as three consecutive kills, two from McLoughlin helped build the lead to 21-17. Elizabeth Johnson and McLoughlin combined to block Doyle to bring up set point, and after UMB scored three in a row, Kelly Hunt wrapped up the set with a spike to put the Owls up in the match.
Keene State's momentum caried over to the second frame initially, as another Hunt kill and Doyle error had the visitors up 5-2, but the Owls managed just three more points over the next 19 as UMass-Boston eventually went up 16-8 on a kill from Qose. KSC never got closer than seven after that, and Czapiewska's block on Hunt made it 20-10. The Beacons had no trouble closing out the 25-15 set win to even the match.
The Owls hung around in the third set despite allowing UMass-Boston to hit .464 (15 kills, two errors), but the hosts broke away from a 10-10 tie with a 6-2 run and never trailed after that. Consecutive spikes by Sydney Johnson and Ashford kept KSC within just two (17-15), but blocking and attacking errors gave the Beacons the points right back, and the hosts ran off four points in a row shortly thereafter to take a commanding 23-16 edge on their way to a 25-17 win that put them up in the match for the first time.
With KSC looking to force a deciding set, the fourth was extremely close, with neither team leading by more than three until UMB tallied three straight to build a 14-9 lead. Kills from Ashford and Johnson helped the Owls immediately hit back, as they made it 14-12, but they struggled to make more of a dent than that. Keene State got within two several times, and even 21-20 after a kill by Ashford, but a service error on the next point continued to prevent the Owls from building any significant momentum. A kill from Tiscareno made it 23-20 and forced a KSC timeout. After the break, a service error and a McLoughlin kill made it a one-point gap once again, forcing a UMB timeout. A Keene State attacking mishap on the first point after that stoppage had them playing for their season. Another point from McLoughlin brought the visitors within 24-23, but Czapiewska ended the match with a kill.
- The loss wraps up the impressive careers of Olivia Mathieu, Kelly Hunt, and Bailey Wilson. Mathieu finishes with 1,307 career digs, good for fifth on KSC's all-time list. Furthermore, after changing roles, her 659 this season are the third highest single-season total in program history. Wilson finishes with 2,891 assists over her three years. That total is good for a comfortable second place spot in Keene State's record book, and all three of her single-season totals (937, 956, 998) rank in the top ten on that list. Hunt set a career-high with 13 kills this past Saturday, and overall finished with 153 in each of the past two seasons.
- The match marked the third consecutive year that KSC saw UMass-Boston in the Little East tournament and ninth time overall. The Owls knocked off the Beacons last year, 3-1 in Willimantic, but have not won at the Clark Athletic Center since 2008.
- Keene State's season is over.
- UMass-Boston travels to No. 1 seed Western Connecticut State University on Thursday, November 7 for a 7:00 pm start.