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North Reading’s Morrison leaving her mark on the basketball court at UMass Boston too

Morrison adds basketball to UMass sports resume

Kirsten Morrison was recruited to play volleyball at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

The North Reading High graduate (class of 2011) was stellar in her first season, powering the Beacons this fall to a 28-5 slate, the Little East Conference title, and the NCAA Division 3 East finals.

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Along the way, the 6-foot-2-inch middle hitter was selected as the conference’s top rookie. When the season ended, she was ready for a break.

But two of her roommates, fellow freshmen Lauren Perra of Taunton and Brittany Moore of Billerica, both members of the basketball team, urged her to try out for their squad. Though she had played four years of high school ball, she was hesitant at first before relenting.

Morrison auditioned for coach Courtney Mattingly and the results, thus far, have been nothing short of spectacular.

“A huge surprise and a very pleasant one,’’ said Mattingly, in her third season as the UMass coach. “Her approach to the game and her attitude and her maturity as a freshman are all off the charts. Physically, she’s just a tremendous talent. She’s been quite an addition to the team.’’

Making her first start in the fifth game of the season, Morrison responded with 15 points in a 73-19 win over Wheelock. Through the first 16 games, she was averaging a team-leading 15.1 points and 9.7 rebounds per game for the Beacons (5-11 overall, 2-5 Little East), and rang up double-doubles against Western Connecticut State (21 points, 11 rebounds), Westfield State (17 and 13), and Rutgers-Newark (15 and 11).

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In a 68-55 win over Eastern Connecticut State, she poured in a career-high 31 points, earning Rookie of the Week honors from the New England Women’s Basketball Association. Midway through the season, Morrison was leading all Little East freshmen in points and rebounds per game.

“Playing basketball wasn’t something I had planned on doing,’’ said Morrison (in action at right), but Perra and Moore “kept bugging me about it. They gave me insight into the team and how I’d fit in. It all sounded so inviting, so I decided to give it a try. There were two days of tryouts and I guess I showed I could play.

“Right now, I am absolutely delighted that I decided to do this. I love my teammates, my coach and am very happy,’’ she said.

“One thing I quickly learned was that playing in college and playing in high school are two different things. College ball is played at a much quicker pace and is much more physical, especially in the post. That’s been a learning experience.’’

Like Morrison, Mattingly says there’s room for improvement.

Morrison “is very athletic and she does things so naturally and effortlessly,’’ said Mattingly. “She has gifts you can’t teach, natural gifts. Yet at the same time she has the desire to learn and get better. She wants to know what’s she’s doing wrong and how to make it better.

“We’ve pinpointed two things - using her left hand more and her free-throw shooting - as things to work on. But you have to remember, she’s just a freshman, although a very talented freshman.’’

Campus corner

Franklin Pierce senior goalie Vinny Papageorgiou of Wilmington has earned All-America accolades from the National Soccer Coaches Association. The Northeast-10 Conference’s Goalkeeper of the Year, Papageorgiou posted a 21-1-1 record, and his 0.51 goals-against average ranked third in the nation. He notched 13 shutouts, including three straight in the NE-10 postseason tournament and two more in the NCAA Division 2 championships . . . Boston College freshman Stephanie McCaffrey of Winchester was one of 30 players invited to training camp in Chula Vista, Calif., for the U-20 US women’s national soccer team. McCaffrey was the third-leading scorer for the Eagles last season with four goals and five assists . . . With 39 saves in a 2-2 overtime tie against Maine, Joe Cannata of Wakefield became Merrimack College’s all-time leader in saves with 2,698 . . . The American Baseball Coaches Association has named UMass Lowell senior shortstop Cam Kneeland of Rowley a preseason East All-American. Kneeland batted a team-high .328 with six home runs and 53 RBIs last season . . . Stonehill freshman Amy Pelletier of Beverly was the NE-10’s Rookie of the Week in women’s basketball after averaging 13 points, two assists, and one rebound in two games. For the season, Pelletier is averaging 9.7 points per game.

Around and about

The Catholic Central League is looking to increase its numbers. Any coeducational school, public or private, interested in information about joining the circuit should contact Jeff Newhall, the league’s vice president and athletic director at St. Mary’s of Lynn, at 781-586-2016 before March 1 . . . Futures Collegiate Baseball League commissioner Chris Hall of Chelmsford has announced the formation of the league’s sixth franchise in Old Orchard Beach, Maine. The team will play its home games at the Ballpark, former home of a Triple A minor league club, the Maine Guides . . . Bob Almeida is the new head football coach at Stoneham High. He succeeds David Pignone, who stepped down to devote more time to his duties as athletic director. Almeida previously coached at Somerville, Wilmington, and Malden Catholic high schools. Last season, he served as offensive coordinator and associate head coach under Pignone.

John Vellante can be reached at JohnPVel@aol.com.

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