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Notebook

North Reading’s Kirsten Morrison a force on volleyball court at UMass-Boston

Morrison serves as role model at UMass

Kirsten Morrison was an impact player on the volleyball court almost as soon as she arrived at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

The North Reading High graduate was Rookie of the Year in the Little East Conference. She earned second team all-conference honors as a freshman and sophomore.

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“You never know,” said UMass Boston coach Terry Condon, in her ninth season at the helm for the Beacons. “You think you see it when you’re recruiting, but until they get here and show you, it’s always a very nice surprise.”

This season, Condon is counting on the 6-foot-2 Morrison, a junior middle hitter, to be the glue for a squad that is chasing its fifth straight Little East championship.

One of four captains, Morrison is the only junior on a team that features nine freshmen. The roster has undergone a large turnover from last fall’s 20-12 squad that advanced to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Division 3 national tournament.

“We have a handful of talented freshmen, and the biggest thing we’re working on is jelling on the court and our team chemistry,” she said. “My biggest thing is to bring energy to the court, and push everyone to be the best they can be without being too aggressive.”

The Beacons started the season 4-5, but picked up a Little East Conference victory with a 3-2 win against Keene State on Wednesday. They traveled to New York this weekend for four games — two Friday and two Saturday.

Morrison, third on the team with 56 kills, said she’s noticed the chemistry improving. One of her top goals is to improve the team’s mental toughness — a vital asset late in the season.

The Beacons tapped off the season at the Colorado College Invitational, and Morrison reflected on encouraging the freshmen to embrace the crowd’s energy.

“The upperclassmen this year have the mindset that we’re a great team,” said the 21-year-old. “We know what it’s like to go to regionals and nationals, and we’re trying to enforce that in the freshmen’s mind, to leave the crowd out of the picture and focus on what we’re doing.

“When we were in Colorado, people from the sidelines were heckling them. In big games, thriving off the crowd is important,’’ Morrison said. “As much as it’s a physical game, it’s a mental game too, and we’re focusing on being mentally tougher this year.”

Condon said Morrison’s leadership and strong vocal presence on the court is important, especially to help the younger players through close matches and tight situations.

“When we’re in the fifth game and it’s 13-13, the freshmen haven’t been in that situation before,” Condon said, but Morrison “knows what to do. We need that from the few upperclassmen we have, to help them through.’’

Since Condon arrived at UMass Boston in 2005, the Beacons have experienced unprecedented success. In addition to their run last season, they also advanced to the Elite Eight in 2010, and have finished with 20 wins or more in each of the last five seasons.

Condon, one of the best volleyball players to ever suit up at UCLA, established a standard of success at a program that is far from the West Coast, where the sport thrives.

“She’s a legend and was an unbelievable player,” Morrison said. “And she really pushed me to be the best player I can be. She’s been very encouraging.”

Morrison has also developed into a force on the basketball court.

She was also named the Little East Conference Rookie of the Year on the hardwood, and carries career averages of 13.9 points and 8.8 rebounds per game for the Beacons. There is no offseason between volleyball and hoops.

Last year, after competing in the volleyball national tournament in Michigan, she flew back to Boston to suit up in a basketball game that weekend.

But for now, Morrison’s focus is leading the volleyball team to the Little East title and a shot at the NCAA crown.

“It’d be nice to be an All-American,” she said. “That’s my ultimate goal, and for us as a team, I’d love to go to nationals and prove everyone wrong.”

Dwyer’s performance earns ticket to KC

Swampscott’s Chris Dwyer delivered a lights-out performance on the mound for the Omaha Storm Chasers in the Triple-A championship game Tuesday night. The next day, he was in the big leagues.

The 25-year-old lefty took a perfect game into the seventh against the Durham Bulls before yielding a two-out single. He finished the inning, and with eight strikeouts earned the win and MVP honors.

“I felt good from the start; I had all my pitches working, and I tried to carry it into the game and did,” Dwyer told the Kansas City Star. “I just wanted to go out there and do my best.”

Later that night, he learned that he had been called up to the parent club, the Kansas City Royals, for their playoff push.

Dwyer, who attended St. Mary’s in Lynn, went on to pitch at Clemson before K.C. drafted him 122d overall in the 2009 draft.

“We’ll find a way to get Dwyer into a game,” Royals manager Ned Yost told the Kansas City newspaper.

This season at Omaha, he was 10-11 with a 3.55 ERA. In his five-year minor league career, Dwyer is 34-37 with a 4.57 ERA and 470 strikeouts.

Marblehead honors William ‘Esso’ Haines

Before Friday’s football game against Salem, the access road to the Marblehead High field house was named in honor of William “Esso” Haines , who died in July at age 83.

A football official and baseball umpire for 30-plus years, he was highly regarded for his involvement with the Marblehead Magicians Gridiron Club, which helped athletes earn various scholarships.

“The naming of the road is a tremendous way to keep Esso’s memory alive and for the people of Marblehead to remember him by,” club president Evan Harris said in an announcement. “His accomplishments and loyalty to the town’s youth will be forever remembered.”

Here and there

Newburyport’s Cassaundra Davis scored all three goals for the Saint Michael’s College field hockey team, powering the Purple Knights to their first victory over Bentley since 2008. The junior scored the game-winner in the 3-2 match with 9:17 to play. . . Salem State freshman field hockey forward Natalia Bourne (Tewksbury) tallied her first career hat trick in the Vikings’ 8-0 victory over Becker College on Tuesday.

Anthony Gulizia can be reached at gulizia.ant@gmail.com.
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