Amherst In Search of Third Straight NESCAC Title

2008 champs
Amherst became the first team to finish a season undefeated in the NESCAC, as the Jeffs went 12-0-4 during the regular season before winning all three of their tournament games.
After a record-breaking 2006-07 season, the Amherst women’s hockey program maintained its status as a national contender by winning 20 games for the second consecutive year, posting a record of 20-4-4. Along with the Lord Jeffs’ second consecutive NESCAC title, Amherst became the first team to win the championship after going undefeated in conference play during the regular season (12-0-4). As the number two seed in the tournament, Amherst out-scored playoff opponents Bowdoin, Trinity and Colby by a combined 14-3 to win the title and complete the undefeated season, setting up an NCAA Tournament game at Orr Rink for the first time in program history.

As one of the hottest teams in the nation, The Lord Jeffs carried a 17-game unbeaten streak (15-0-2) into national tournament before falling 3-2 at the hands of Elmira College.  Despite the loss, Amherst finished the year with a No. 3 ranking in the USCHO national Division III poll, its highest-ever ranking. Amherst boasted the NESCAC’s best scoring defense (1.18 goals allowed per game) and highest penalty kill percentage (90.8), along with the second best scoring offense (3.86 goals per game). A conference-high five Lord Jeffs earned All-NESCAC honors, including a pair of selections to the First Team.

Amherst loses four seniors to graduation in Elizabeth Ditmore, Natanya Khazzam, Megan Quinn and Katharine Kelly. In their four years with the program, the Class of 2008 posted a record of 58-38-12 (.593), won two NESCAC titles and earned a pair of trips to the NCAA Tournament, including a Frozen Four appearance in 2007. As two-time NESCAC Winter All-Academic Team selections, Khazzam, Quinn and Kelly combined for 60 career points on 23 goals and 37 assists. As a co-captain of last year’s squad, Quinn had a breakout season with five goals and eight assists for 13 points. Ditmore—a selection to last year’s NESCAC Winter All-Sportsmanship Team—had a knack for scoring at the right time, finishing her career with 13 goals and 24 assists.

Senior Julie Radziewicz will serve as one of three team captains after co-captaining last year's team as a junior.
This year’s senior class consists of defenseman Julie Radziewicz and forwards Anna MacLean, Tarasai Karega and Lindsey Harrington. MacLean notched 32 points as a sophomore, finishing with 15 goals and accounting for both tallies in Amherst’s triple-overtime victory over Middlebury to win the NESCAC Championship. Karega has been a consistent threat for the past three years, as she burst onto the scene by leading all of Division III in power play goals as a first-year. During her sophomore campaign, Karega earned All-NESCAC First Team honors, leading the conference in goals (20) and the nation in game-winning goals (8). Last year she garnered Second Team All-NESCAC honors while compiling a point per game for the Lord Jeffs. Karega begins her senior campaign just 14 points shy of 100 for her career, as she has thus far totaled 51 goals and 35 assists for a team-high 86 points.

Averaging just under a point per game for her career (38-37-75), Harrington also has a chance to reach the 100-point mark for her career. One of this year’s tri-captains, Harrington was named the team’s MVP during her first year and has captured two NESCAC Player of the Week awards during her first three years. Joining Harrington as a captain and rounding out the senior class is Radziewicz, who last year finished 12th in the NESCAC in defenseman scoring (3-7-10) as a junior co-captain. A fierce defender, Radziewicz brings outstanding speed, anticipation and one-on-one skills to a defensive unit that is among the stingiest in Division III.

Sharing captain duties with Harrington and Radziewicz will be junior defenseman Kirsten Dier, a two-time All-NESCAC First Team selection. After finishing third in the conference in defenseman scoring with 23 points as a first-year, Dier’s three goals and 11 assists a year ago landed her sixth in scoring among defensemen. Adding to the defense will be junior Alyssa Chwick, whose five assists last year included one on the game-winning goal in the NESCAC semifinals and one on the eventual game-winner in the finals.

Anchoring the defense will once again be two-time All-America goaltender Krystyn Elek. As a first-year, Elek led the NESCAC and finished third in the nation in save percentage (.939), as she was named the NESCAC Rookie of the Year to go along with her First Team all-conference selection. Elek added six shutouts and Second Team All-NESCAC and All-America selections last year, as she finished second in the conference in save percentage (.940) and fourth in goals-against average (1.33).

Junior tri-captain Kirsten Dier earned All-NESCAC First Team honors in each of her first two collegiate seasons.
The Class of 2010 features three experienced and talented forwards in Kate Dennett, Michelle McGann and Molly Malloy. A two-time NESCAC Player of the Week honoree during her first two years, Dennett led the NESCAC with four shorthanded goals and cracked the top 10 in assists (14) and points (25) last season.

McGann also shined during her first two years, tallying 47 points (15 goals, 32 assists) in 57 games, including a team-high 19 assists during her rookie campaign. Coming off another stellar field hockey season during which she led Amherst in points for a third consecutive year, Malloy rounds out the junior class as a consistent forward. After recording nine points in a first year that saw her play half the season on defense, Malloy more than doubled her goal total as a sophomore to finish tied for 11th in the NESCAC in goals (11), three of which were game winners.

Amherst’s sophomore class features eight players, all of whom made significant contributions to last year’s team. Highlighting the second-year forwards is Courtney Hanlon, whose 15 goals and 20 assists led the Jeffs in scoring and earned her a spot on the All-NESCAC First Team. Hanlon finished second in the conference in first-year scoring and assists, tied for second in power play points (13), third in points, and tied for fourth in goals. Randi Zukas was just as impressive on defense, joining Hanlon on the All-Conference squad with a Second Team selection. Zukas finished her inaugural season tied for fourth in the NESCAC in defenseman scoring (1-14-15), tied for sixth in assists and power play points (11), and tied for seventh in first-year scoring.

Adding depth up front will be Megan Curry, CC Wyshnytzky and Braidie Campbell, each of whom cracked the NESCAC’s top 20 in first-year scoring, as well as Brittney Evans, who recorded four goals and one assist last year. Rounding out the Class of 2011 are defenseman Julia Koch and goaltender Caroline Hu. Koch’s three goals and nine assists landed her tied for eighth in the conference in defenseman scoring and tied for ninth in first-year scoring, while Hu finished with an impressive 7-0-1 record, three shutouts, a 0.74 goals-against average and a .954 save percentage. Last year Hu’s outstanding play gave Amherst one of the best one-two punches in the nation between the pipes.

Sophomore Courtney Hanlon's 15 goals and 20 assists last year led Amherst and earned her an All-NESCAC First Team selection.
Amherst welcomes first-year forwards Josie Fisher, Emily Vitale and Ellen Swiontkowski, as well as defenseman Stephanie Clegg and goaltender Sinead Murphy. Joining Malloy this past fall on the Lord Jeff field hockey team were Vitale and Clegg. While Clegg was named the Female Athlete of the Year at Philips Andover Academy, Vitale was a two-time captain at New England prep hockey power Choate, winning a Division 1 prep championship in 2007. Fisher was named the Female Athlete of the Year at her high school as well (Hanover, N.H.), adding a New Hampshire Girls Hockey Player of the Year honor to her credit. Swiontkowski, meanwhile, set the all-time and single season scoring records for the Breck School girls’ ice hockey program in Minneapolis, MN. A product of Rochester’s Mayo High School in Minnesota, Murphy will look to learn from Elek and Hu, as she will provide depth to an already outstanding goaltender unit as a former All-Conference selection.

Also joining the Amherst program is assistant coach Meghan Gillis, a 2007 graduate of Bowdoin College and one of the most accomplished women’s ice hockey players in NESCAC history. In addition to earning the conference’s Rookie of the Year honor in 2004, Gillis earned three All-NESCAC selections and was named an All-American as a senior, finishing her career third on the Polar Bears’ all-time scoring list with 154 points.

Amherst will look to build on its 32-game unbeaten streak against NESCAC opponents—the longest such streak in the conference’s history—while in search of a third straight conference title. With one of the most difficult non-conference schedules in the country and the NESCAC becoming more competitive, the path to a third straight NCAA Tournament will not be easy. Entering the season ranked fourth by, Amherst will face the first-, second-, fifth- and sixth-ranked teams in the nation this year, and will twice meet up with third-ranked Middlebury. The Jeffs added national powerhouses Gustavus Adolphus and Saint Thomas (Minn.) to their schedule, and will also face Buffalo State for the first time in history.

Depth and defense are the keys to success for this young but experienced squad, and head coach Jim Plumer has plenty of each to work with. The 2008-09 season opens with a rematch of last year’s NESCAC Championship finals, with the Lord Jeffs hosting Colby Friday, Nov. 21 at 7 p.m.