Amherst Set to Repeat Success from Record-Breaking 2007 Season

After finishing as the NESCAC runner-up, last year's Amherst squad advanced to the national quarterfinals for the first time in program history.

2007 Season Recap
Amherst began the 2007 season with an 11-match winning streak en route to a 30-5 overall record that tied the program mark for victories in a season. The Lord Jeffs posted a 9-1 conference record to earn the No. 1 seed in the NESCAC Championship Tournament, defeating No. 8 Bowdoin in the quarterfinals and No. 4 Connecticut College in the semifinals. For the second consecutive season and third time this decade, Amherst was paired up with archrival Williams in the conference finals, but it was the Ephs who claimed the title with a thrilling 3-2 win.

Despite boasting a 27-4 record, the loss to Williams was expected to keep Amherst out of the NCAA Championships. Not only did the Jeffs earn a spot in the national tournament, they defeated Rivier in the opening round, avenged their loss to Williams by eliminating the Ephs in the second round, and stunned MIT in the Round of 16 to advance to the national quarterfinals for the first time in program history. The outstanding season came to an end with a 3-0 loss to highly favored defending national champion Juniata College.

Twenty-one of Amherst’s victories came by a 3-0 margin, while four of the five losses ended in a 3-2 result. The Lord Jeffs led the NESCAC in hitting percentage (.248) and blocks per game (2.37) for the second consecutive season, and finished second in assists per game (12.57), kills per game (14.63) and digs per game (20.8). Amherst was just as successful in the classroom, as all seven eligible players earned a spot on the NESCAC Fall All-Academic Team.

Amherst loses to graduation a trio of standouts in Julie Berkley, Jaclyn DeMais and Whitney Kouvaris. As a two-time All-Academic selection, Berkley was consistently among the conference leaders in service aces and digs as a stellar defensive specialist. In her senior season, Berkley was named to the Wesleyan Invitational All-Tournament Team and finished the year with the NESCAC’s fourth highest service aces per game average (0.63). After finishing second in the conference in hitting percentage (.359) as a junior, Kouvaris replicated her success as a senior and earned a spot on the All-NESCAC Second Team and Roger Williams Invitational All-Tournament Team. As one of the Jeffs’ best offensive weapons, Kouvaris averaged 3.39 kills per game (fifth in the NESCAC) and hit at a .261 clip for the conference’s 12th highest hitting percentage.

Head coach Sue Everden would love to welcome back DeMais, who last year was named the NESCAC Player of the Year. DeMais shined from the beginning of her time at Amherst, garnering an All-Conference Second Team selection as a sophomore by averaging 3.57 kills per game. Her numbers improved the next year, when she averaged 3.73 kills per game and hit at a .289 clip to earn a spot on the All-NESCAC First Team. In addition to her Player of the Year award and All-Conference First Team nod as a senior, DeMais earned the second and third Player of the Week honors of her career, was named the Roger Williams Invitational MVP, and finished second in the NESCAC in kills per game (4.98), third in hitting percentage (.284) and 13th in digs per game (3.95). For her all-around excellence on the court, DeMais will surely go down as one of the most well-rounded players in the program’s illustrious history.

Heller 3
Senior Sara Heller earned All-NESCAC honors after leading the conference in assists per game in 2007. 

Returning Players
Returning as one of the best setters in the NESCAC and highlighting Amherst’s senior class is Sara Heller, who last year earned her first All-NESCAC selection after finishing with 1,363 assists to lead the conference in assists per game (11.65). Heller led the NESCAC in assists (1,323) during her sophomore year, as she has had the fortune of setting up some of Division III’s best outside hitters during her time at Amherst. This year, Heller will be setting up three of her classmates in Claire Holton-Basaldua, Hannah Wirth and Alison Munzer. Wirth led the NESCAC in hitting percentage (.314) last year and averaged 1.55 kills per game, adding 87 blocks as a force at the net. Munzer showed flashes of brilliance as a junior and finished with the Jeffs’ fourth highest kills-per-game average (1.75), while Holton-Basaldua averaged 2.28 kills, hit at a .254 clip and totaled 50 blocks as a solid all-around player.

Flying solo in the junior class is defensive specialist Bethany Belisle, who averaged 2.8 digs per game as a first-year and earned All-Tournament honors at the Hall of Fame Classic. Last year, Belisle averaged 2.27 digs per game and chalked up 25 service aces. This year’s sophomores got plenty of experience in 2007 and played a vital role in Amherst’s success. Jackie Berkley and Laura Hyman were valuable additions up front and finished with hitting percentages of .262 and .273, respectively, with Berkley finishing fifth in the NESCAC in blocks per game (1.02). Rachel Yorke quickly became one of the most talented defensive specialists in the conference, finishing second in digs per game (5.70) and earning Hall of Fame Classic All-Tournament honors. Yorke recorded at least 36 digs in four matches, including a 41-dig performance in Amherst’s victory in the NESCAC semifinals. Rounding out the Class of 2011 are Erin Camp, who averaged 2.09 digs per game as an impressive first-year defensive specialist, and setter Katherine Jordan. Jordan saw limited time as a first-year due to Heller’s consistence and experience, but in her time on the court she averaged 7.94 assists per game and this year will once again allow Amherst to run different options on offense, as well as give Heller valuable rest.

Coach Everden welcomes an exceptional group of first-years with the potential to immediately fill the significant void left by the graduating seniors. California natives Cristy Meier and Katherine Kanoff are expected to help fill the holes left by DeMais and Kouvaris on the outside, while Mary Reiser will help out in the middle and on the right side. With each player standing at 6’2, Meier and Reiser should build on what is already an exceptional blocking team, giving the Jeffs a legitimate chance to lead the NESCAC in blocks per game for a fourth consecutive season. Everden describes Kanoff as an all-around player with exceptional passing skills, as well as the ability to be effective as an outside hitter despite standing at only 5’8.

Season Outlook
Amherst is a combined 58-10 in the last two years and is showing no signs of slowing down. Coach Everden is a mere three victories shy of 500 for her career, and she could reach the milestone as early as Sept. 6, when the Jeffs kick off the season at the Roger Williams Invitational to play as many as three matches. Despite the loss of yet another talented senior class, an exceptional group of underclassmen is ready to help lead Amherst to a third consecutive NCAA Championship Tournament appearance and a fourth conference title. The NESCAC has consistently been a competitive conference, but look for the Jeffs to once again earn a spot near the top of the standings.