(Image via corsairathletics.com)
Volunteer Writer: Billy Mankavech
It was a historic weekend for the UMass Dartmouth women’s volleyball team, whose two wins against UMass Boston and Plymouth State led them to their first Little Eastern Conference Championship in school history.
Everything started last weekend on November 4th, 2023, when The Corsairs entered Plymouth State.
Both teams stood at 7-0 in conference play for the last regular season match of the season. The match determined who would be the LEC champion and where the Conference Tournament would be played. The Corsairs rolled back from a 2-0 hole against the reigning champions and rallied for the 3-2 win (14-25, 22-25, 25-21, 25-22, 15-10). Making more history as it was the first time the program finished 8-0 in conference matches.
The championship run started on Thursday, November 9th, 2023, when UMass Boston came to town. However, the match was short as The Beacons were no match for these red-hot Corsairs.
This juggernaut roster made quick work in this match-up in the first round of the tournament. Thanks to the triple-headed scoring display from Sanker, Wade, and Sullivan, who combined for 26 kills. It would have been insanity to believe the outcome would be any different, as each set ended in the same outcome (25-13, 25-13, 25-13).
This led to the UMass Dartmouth women’s volleyball team’s first-ever LEC championship appearance. It was a rematch from a week before against Plymouth State, who wanted revenge for the regular season title.
The big championship took place on Saturday, November 11th, 2023. However, this time, they didn’t travel far for The Tripp Center, which provided an electrifying home crowd.
From the very first serve, it was easy to tell why both teams were the highest-ranked in the conference. The fans got a show for the ages. It was a clash between these two titans.
The Panthers came in hot, as they played relentlessly to set the tone early, stealing the first set from The Corsairs to send a message (25-19).
But the Corsairs were hungry for their first championship, so they retaliated in the second set to try to even the score. Thanks to juniors Wade and Sanker, who went on a scoring spree to start the set at 7-2 and did not look back from there. They found their groove and went on to tie the match 1-1 with a set win (25-19).
The third set unfolded with UMass Dartmouth having all the momentum and the fans screaming with energy. As things were back and forth with the set tied at 12-12, they released a barrage of spikes and kills, going on an 8-1 run. The Panthers were scrambling on the court, unsure how to stop The Corsairs from rolling. Senior Laing closed out the set with a win (25-18).
With two losing sets in a row, The Panthers were not done just yet, as they refused to lose. They tried their best to bring it to a final fifth set to determine everything, which happened after they won the fourth set (25-17).
At this point in the game, the entire crowd was on their feet as the entire building shook from the cheers and chants of the home crowd.
The match was tied at 2-2, with the glory of a championship hanging in the balance. The electric atmosphere in the arena matched the energy on the court. Plymouth State attempted to end The Corsair’s title dreams as they went out to an early 7-4 start before UMassD tied it back up 7-7.
The two teams traded punches back and forth like their lives depended on it. But with the season on the line down 11-10, The Corsairs rallied off four straight points in a row. The Panthers looked stunned and had no answer as the fan section roars echoed throughout the building.
With the score 14-12, Kate Wade, who won outstanding player of the game, got to finish off The Panthers with the final blow to win the fifth set and match (19-25, 25-19, 25-18, 17-25, 15-12).
This is a historic win in the program’s history, bringing home the first-ever Little Eastern Conference Championship for UMass Dartmouth Women’s Volleyball.
The season was a big win for the LEC performers: Emily Pogorelec, who won Defensive Player of the Week; Kate Wade, who won Offensive Player of the Week; Skye Peters, who won Rookie Performer of the Week and, of course, the seniors who have been leading the way, Maggie Sullivan, Gabriella Monico, Annika Laudemann, and Devon Laing.
The Corsairs, who are on the program’s longest winning streak with 13 straight wins, will not stop here. They have earned an automatic bid into the NCAA DIII Tournament.
They will compete against the Claremont-Mudd-Scripp Athenas on the MIT campus tonight, Thursday, November 16th, at 2 PM. You can keep up with The UMass Dartmouth Women’s Volley Team here for the rest of the season.