Before wrapping up their season, the Keene State College women’s volleyball team recently defeated University of Massachusetts Boston for the first time in ten years. For years, the volleyball team has done well, advancing to the semi finals almost every year. However, UMass Boston has consistently defeated them in the semi finals — until now.
The team ended the season with a record of 24-7, losing in the finals to Eastern Connecticut University. According to head coach Bob Weiner, the team has reached a tremendous goal by defeating UMASS Boston.
“We had lost to UMass something like seventeen consecutive matches, dating back to November of 2008,” he said. Additionally, Weiner said that Keene State volleyball had lost to UMass Boston in the LEC championship games multiple times since since 2010. “We owed them,” he said. “Lots of history.”
Weiner also spoke to some of the key players this year that played a big role in defining the team.
“We came into this year not really knowing who we were. We were carried in 2017 by our All-American Rachel Lamica. We knew we couldn’t replace her, and weren’t sure what it would actually look like,” he said.
He said that Riley Bunker, the libero, the LEC defensive player of the year in 2017 could possibly be it again this year. “She’s always been good, but this has been her best year.” Weiner also mentioned the abilities of many of the younger players, including sophomore Megan Palmer and first-years Ali McLaughlin, Elizabeth Johnson, and Emilyann Ashford.
KSC senior Niamh Dodd, captain on the team, said the players on the team grew a lot as both individuals and as a team.
“We’ve had our ups and downs, but that’ll happen,” said Dodd. “We beat Umass Boston which was a big deal, so it was kind of cool to see us get better over time.” As a senior, Dodd has seen Keene State’s volleyball team grow and develop into what it is today over the past four years, and she says it’s been a very positive change. Dodd said she believes the team has gotten much better since her senior year, and they proved it by beating their long-time competitor.
She said that while the team performed very well, there were certainly a few key players that contributed a large amount to their success this year. According to Dodd, some key players included Kait West, Riley Bunker and Elizabeth Johnson. She also said that Johnson, a first-year student, had “big shoes to fill” on the court after taking an important position when no one else could.
Johnson wasn’t the only younger player that Dodd held in high regard. Sophomore Nina Dias is a setter on the team, and a good friend of Dodd’s. She’s been playing volleyball since she was twelve. After playing consistently since, Dias was the captain of the Ludlow High School team in Massachusetts. However, she didn’t play a full freshman season due to some injuries. She returned this year and said that Dodd is a big reason why.
“Niamh was definitely one person that made it a good season for me and I’m happy that I chose to come back. She really influenced me,” said Dias. When asked if she planned to return for next year, she said, “I want to keep going but I’m not completely sure if that will happen. I’ve been injured a lot this season and it’s getting to the point where I don’t know if it’s worth it to keep affecting my health.”
Dodd expressed great pride in the team’s success this year, and is hopeful for the upcoming seasons.
“I’m proud,” she said. “It’s obviously not good that we lost, but somebody had to lose and they just outperformed us. But I think we did well and I’m happy with how it went.” As for Weiner, the head coach is already looking towards the future of KSC volleyball.
Weiner said the younger players have a lot of potential, and that the loss of some seniors will be a small challenge to overcome. “If we bring in good kids to replace Riley, Niamh, and Kait west, we’ll be right back in the hunt.”
Matthew Barriga can be contacted at