Amherst Primed to Return to Elite Status in NESCAC

Darling
Senior Alanna Darling earned All-NESCAC and All-New England First Team honors in 2007 as the backbone of Amherst's defense.

2007 Recap
After outscoring its opponents 41-10 and posting a 15-2-2 record in 2006, Amherst struggled to find the net last year, ending the season with only 17 goals and finishing with a disappointing 5-6-4 record. All of the team’s wins came against NESCAC opponents, and Amherst finished with an impressive 5-2-2 record in regular season conference play to earn a No. 3 seed in the NESCAC Championship. Unfortunately, Amherst’s run for the NESCAC title was cut short by a 1-0 loss to Middlebury in the opening round of the tournament. 

Amherst posted a 0-4-2 record in non-conference play, underscoring their strength of schedule. Their opponents outside of the NESCAC were a combined 84-16-7 (.818) last year and included national semifinalist TCNJ (21-1-1) and powerhouse WheatonCollege (22-1-1). Despite the relentless schedule, Amherst earned six shutouts, played in six overtime games, and lost five games by just one goal.  Highlighting the season was a six-game unbeaten streak that lasted from Sept. 29 to Oct. 20, during which the Jeffs went 4-0-2 and outscored opponents 12-3.

Losses
Heather Nowak is the lone Lord Jeff to have played under head coach Jen Hughes for four years, and is one of only three players the team loses to graduation. Nowak was a regular in the midfield in each of her four seasons, totaling seven goals and 11 assists in her career. Nowak picked up a pair of game-winning goals in her time, both of which came in key one-goal conference victories.

Joining Nowak in last year’s senior class is Katie Coffey, who played her first two collegiate seasons at BostonCollege and earned 2004 Soccer Buzz All-Freshman Northeast Region honors. After helping lead the Eagles to the NCAA Tournament Round of 16 in consecutive seasons, Coffey joined the Lord Jeffs in 2006 and made an immediate impact. During Amherst’s outstanding 15-2-2 season, Coffey scored six goals and added four assists, finishing tied for ninth in the NESCAC in points. Injuries and a switch to defense last year prevented Coffey from matching her offensive statistics from 2006, but she was still selected to play in the Division III NEWISA Senior Bowl.

Rounding out last year’s senior class is Simone Burke, who played one year with the team and finished her career as the team’s manager. She worked tirelessly behind the scenes and will be missed for her support and encouragement. 

Seniors
Highlighting the Class of 2009 is standout defender Alanna Darling, who last year earned a slew of postseason honors, including selections to the All-NESCAC and NSCAA/adidas All-New England First Teams for the second consecutive year. In addition to serving as the backbone for Amherst’s defense, Darling added three goals and an assist to bring her career point total to 13. Classmates Kate Moriarty and Mary Marvel, who returns this season from an ACL injury that kept her out for most of 2007, add a wealth of experience, and the three will team up to form one of the more skilled defensive units in the NESCAC.

Senior midfielders Natalie Ferraiolo and Kathryn Bentley enter the 2008 season with a combined seven career goals and five career assists to their credit. Ferraiolo had a hand in Amherst’s first and last goals of 2007, as she picked up an assist during a 1-1 tie with national powerhouse Johns Hopkins and scored the Jeffs’ lone goal in the regular season finale at Williams, marking just the third goal the Ephs had allowed all year. Forwards Julia Cummings and Stephanie Yesnik round out the senior class, with Yesnik returning as one of the team’s most consistent goal scorers. After scoring four goals and one assist to earn All-NESCAC Second Team honors as a first-year, Yesnik added two goals and one assist in her sophomore campaign and two goals and three assists as a junior.

Ferguson
Junior Lili Ferguson earned All-Conference and All-New England honors last year to go along with a NESCAC Player of the Week nod.

Juniors and Sophomores
Adding to Amherst’s strong defensive core are juniors Lili Ferguson and Kathy Nolan. The loss of All-American goalkeeper Piper Crowell ’06 left Amherst with big shoes to fill in net last year, but Ferguson stepped into the leading role and earned All-NESCAC and NEWISA All-New England Second Team honors. During her most impressive stretch, Ferguson played 437 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal, a span that lasted from Sept. 29 to Oct. 20 and earned her a Conference Player of the Week nod.  Nolan has been a consistent and reliable player for the Lord Jeffs and for the past two seasons has played a vital role in forming one of the better defenses in the NESCAC.

This year’s junior class also consists of midfielders Meg Murphy and Jill Whiting and forward Cami Farkas. Murphy has been one of the conference’s most dangerous offensive threats for the past two years. Her six goals and three assists earned her All-NESCAC First Team and NESCAC Rookie of the Year honors in 2006, and she followed up with four goals and two assists as a sophomore to once again earn an All-NESCAC First Team selection. In addition to earning All-NESCAC and NSCAA and D3kicks.com All-Region First Team honors, Murphy was the leading vote-getter among midfielders for selection to the NEWISA All-New England Team, as she grabbed a First Team nod.

Sophomore forwards Kyla Woodhouse and Jackie Hirsch return after successful rookie seasons. Hirsch played in all 15 games and recorded a crucial assist in a 2-2 tie with Wesleyan, and Woodhouse netted three goals in a span of six games to become another option for the Lord Jeffs up front. Caitlin Greskovich, Claire Galiette, Hanna Saint Marie and Caitlin O’Malley will look to play a more significant role after seeing limited action as first-years.

Newcomers
Despite the loss of only three seniors, 12 newcomers will vie for a spot on this year’s team. Amherst welcomes sophomores Amanda Barrow and Cailey Simmons and first-years Claire Bennett, Natalia Bohm, Ariana Cook, Allison Dorey, Katie Giberson, Allie Horwitz, Jill Kochanek, Meredith LaRose, Livia Rizzo, and Jess Wall to this year’s tryouts.

Season Outlook
Amherst will look to the experience and leadership of this year’s senior class as the driving force behind the season. The Class of 2009 has experienced both sweet success and bitter disappointment and hopes to use this experience as motivation for a successful 2008 campaign. Amherst’s trip to Europe this past August provided valuable preparation for what promises to be an exciting season. The season kicks off Saturday, Sept. 6 with a rematch against TCNJ, which will be followed Sunday with a game against EasternUniversity. Conference games are set to begin Saturday, Sept. 13, with the Jeffs heading to Middlebury to avenge their loss in last year’s NESCAC Championship first round.