What’s Ahead

By Justin Long

Amherst ended the 2006 fall season with a pair of NESCAC championships and four NCAA tournament appearances. There were 20 All-Conference Team members, a conference Player of the Year and three conference Rookies of the Year. The fall Jeffs also landed fourth in the U.S. Sports Academy Director’s Cup standings. Today, the players have hard-won titles to defend and, in some cases, chips on their shoulders. Despite the loss of talented players to graduation, the 2007 fall teams have the capacity—and the drive—to exceed last year’s feats.

Last season, the volleyball team went on a 14-match win streak en route to a 28-5 finish and a NESCAC title. With the loss of Kristin Quinn ’07, the 2006 New England Women’s Volleyball Association Player of the Year, the Jeffs return two dominant outside hitters—Jaclyn DeMais ’08 and Whitney Kouvaris ’08—to pick up the slack. Sara Heller ’09, who led the NESCAC with 1,323 assists last season, returns to the court to set up DeMais and Kouvaris. Julie Berkley ’08, who’s been instrumental as a defensive specialist, returns this year as a tri-captain.

Highlighting this year’s football season will be the senior class, which looks to even its career record against Williams College. (The Class of ’08 is 1-2 against the Ephs.) It will be no easy task to balance the score: the Jeffs have not defeated their archrivals on the road since 1985. Leading the Amherst offense will be the rushing tandem of Eric NeSmith ’09 and Aaron Rauh ’10.

In nine meets, the 2006 women’s cross country team never placed lower than second. On consecutive weekends, the Jeffs took home the Little Three, NESCAC and ECAC championships. Amherst ended last season just one point behind Middlebury College for a national title, marking the best finish at the NCAA championships in the history of the Amherst program. With reigning NESCAC Coach of the Year Ned Nedeau at the helm, the Jeffs have their eyes on Nov. 17, when they will look to return to the national podium as champions.

Consecutive third-place finishes at the NESCAC and ECAC championships highlighted last year’s men’s cross country season. Leading this year’s squad will be Harrison Lakehomer ’09, who placed first at last year’s Amherst Invite and Little Three Championship. Amherst was not represented at the 2006 national championships, but the team has the potential to return this year.

With little room to improve, women’s soccer looks to avenge an overtime loss in the 2006 NESCAC championship game, as well as a heartbreaking loss to The College of New Jersey in the national quarterfinals. Anchoring the Jeffs will be reigning NESCAC Rookie of the Year Meg Murphy ’10 and Alanna Darling ’09, both members of last year’s All-NESCAC First Team.

New men’s soccer head coach Justin Serpone has an incredible amount of talent at each position. Goaltender Jeff Grover ’09 is a standout, as is Jake Duker ’09, the returning leading scorer. This year’s team undoubtedly has Oct. 27 circled on the calendar. That is the day that Amherst is scheduled to play Williams for the first time since 2005. (Last year’s much-anticipated match-up was rained out.)

In women’s golf, which plays in the spring but has its conference championship qualifying match in the fall, Kinne Schwartz ’10 demonstrated her potential when she tied for second place overall (with Sarah Harper ’07) at the Wellesley Invite last year. Hayley Milbourn ’11 brings to the team a pair of Interscholastic Athletic Association of Maryland Golf Conference championships.

Men’s golf has lost three talented seniors, but the young core of Will Collins ’09, Chris Valentine ’09 and Adam Shnider­man ’10 might just fill the void. Jesse Corradi ’08 is captain of this year’s team, and Glenn Wong ’09 provides two years of valuable experience.

Field hockey carries over significant momentum from 2006, when the team was 6-2 in its last eight games, including a 1-0 loss to eventual national semifinalist Bowdoin College and a 1-0 win over Williams just one day after losing to the Ephs. With the return of great young players like Alyssa Dudzik ’09, a member of last year’s National Field Hockey Coaches Association All-America Third Team, Amherst might have one of the most successful seasons in program history.