Beavers Claim First NCAA Regional Title, Advance to National Quarterfinals on Thursday in Pittsburgh
BABSON PARK, Mass.—Sophomore Allie Puccio (New Hartford, N.Y.) led all players with 17 kills and junior Elizabeth Cameron (El Dorado Hills, Calif.) finished with 32 assists and 12 digs as Babson College defeated 23rd-ranked Bowdoin College in three sets, 25-21, 25-23, 25-22, in the NCAA Tournament Babson Park Regional final on Sunday afternoon inside Staake Gymnasium.
Babson, which improved 26-8 on the year, won its 18th consecutive match at home and is set to make its first Division III national quarterfinal appearance in program history on Thursday in Pittsburgh, Pa. Bowdoin, which entered the match riding a 19-match winning streak, suffered its first loss since September 22 and ends the season at 29-2 overall.
Puccio, who was selected as the Babson Park Regional Most Outstanding Player, put away seven kills in the fourth set and added three blocks in the match for the Beavers. Sophomore Gaby Miller (Miami, Fla.) recorded eight kills, four digs and three blocks, senior Shannon Roseen (Malden, Mass.) added seven kills, and junior Kristin Carosotto (East Greenwich, R.I.) contributed five kills and three blocks in the win.
Senior Abby Beecher (Pittsford, N.Y.) registered 22 digs and five service aces, while first-years Maddie Malee (Orlando, Fla.) and Samantha Hardan (Woodway, Wash.) finished with nine and eight digs, respectively. Both Cameron and Beecher joined Puccio on the Babson Park Regional All-Tournament team.
Sophomore Ashley Williams (Lake Forest, Ill.) tallied 13 kills, junior Caroline Flaharty (Fort Myers, Fla.) added seven kills and three blocks, and senior Sydney Salle (Chadds Ford, Pa.) finished with six kills and a match-high four total blocks to lead the Polar Bears. Sophomore Kate Kiser (Ingleside, Ill.) handed out 33 assists, senior Lisa Sheldon (Venice, Calif.) led all players with 26 digs, and first-year Sophia Pahl (Cedarburg, Wis.) contributed six kills and 13 digs in the loss.
Tied at 10 in the opening game, the Green and White got five kills from the duo of Puccio and Miller, and a pair of aces form Beecher as part of an 8-1 run. Bowdoin got as close as 23-20 on a block by Kiser and Salle, but Puccio responded with her seventh and eighth kills of the stanza to finish off a 25-21 victory.
The Polar Bears jumped out to an 8-3 advantage in the second set, but the Beavers chipped away and pulled even five times before going in front 21-20 on an attack error. Babson withstood a pair of kills by Flaharty thanks to a pair of Bowdoin errors, and then got a kill of its own from Puccio to extend the lead to 24-22. Pahl cut the margin back to one with a kill but Miller followed with her second kill of the frame on set point number two to take a commanding two-game lead.
The Polar Bears took a 9-8 edge on a kill by first-year Cori Gray (Winter Park, Fla.) early in the third only to see Babson rattle off a seven-point run that included three more kills from Puccio and another ace by Beecher to go in front 15-9. Bowdoin used four kills from Williams as part of a 10-4 run that cut its deficit to 19-18, but Carosotto followed with a block and a kill to push the Beavers' margin back to three.
The visitors pulled within one twice more, but Puccio and Miller combined for their second block of the set and Puccio followed with her seventh kill of the set on match point to send the Beavers to championship weekend.
The eight regional winners will be re-seeded and the quarterfinal matchups and will be announced on Sunday at 9 p.m.
• The Beavers are now 3-5 all-time against Bowdoin and the programs have split a pair of NCAA Tournament matchups.
• Babson ends the year with a perfect 14-0 mark at home and is now 73-10 inside Staake Gymnasium during head coach Eric Neely's eight-year tenure.
• With 32 assists on Sunday, Cameron broke her own single-season mark of 1,004 set last season and is up to 1,018 on the year.
• Puccio, who averaged 5.00 kills per set and hit .388 in three regional matches, has tallied at least 14 kills in each of Babson's last seven outings.