By Justin Long
Women’s basketball and women’s ice hockey have officially joined Amherst’s elite athletics programs. Each team celebrated its most successful season ever in 2008-09.
Even though women’s hockey came out of nowhere in 2007 to win the NESCAC crown and then successfully defended it in 2008, the Jeffs had yet to break through at the national level. The program earned its first No. 1 national ranking in December 2008, but doubts quickly surfaced when the Jeffs went 1-4 in their next five non-conference games.
From there, though, the Jeffs put together a dominant 11-1 stretch that included a 5-0 thrashing of Middlebury, a 4-1 win over Plattsburgh in the NCAA Championship opening round—the first win over the Cardinals in program history—and a 4-3 overtime win over Elmira in the national title game. It was the program’s first NCAA title.
By season’s end, women’s hockey had won a program-best 24 games and gone 16-0 in NESCAC play to earn its first No. 1 seed in the conference tournament. Krystyn Elek ’10 earned All-America honors for a third season. Jim Plumer was named the NESCAC and National Coach of the Year.
Women’s basketball began the season with 18 victories—the longest winning streak in program history—to climb as high as No. 4 in the national rankings. In their first four games of the NCAA Tournament, the Jeffs won by an average of 24.8 points, defeating nationally ranked New York University and Brandeis to advance to the national semifinals for the first time. Amherst’s run ended in Holland, Mich., with a 65-49 loss to Washington University in St. Louis in the semifinals. The Jeffs finished at 29-4 and led the NESCAC in several statistical categories. G.P. Gromacki was named Northeast Coach of the Year, and Jaci Daigneault ’11 became the program’s first player to earn All-America honors.
This year, women’s basketball returns all five starters and 83 percent of its scoring from last season. Women’s hockey welcomes back four All-Conference selections and an outstanding core of young players with a chance to become Amherst’s first program to win back-to-back NCAA titles.