Amherst Returns Top Four Scoring Threats from 2008

Amherst advanced to last year's national quarterfinals and finished with a 14-3-3 record as the fifth-ranked team in Division III.

2008 Recap
The 2008 season began with a 5-1 setback to TCNJ, but it would be more than two months before Amherst suffered defeat again. Amherst finished the regular season unbeaten in NESCAC play for the second time in three years but just missed out on earning the top seed in the conference tournament. In NESCAC Championship play, the Jeffs earned 1-0 victories over Wesleyan and Middlebury in the quarterfinals and semifinals, respectively, before being edged by top-seeded Williams in overtime of the NESCAC title game, 3-2.

With an 11-2-3 record and a runner-up finish in the NESCAC Tournament, Amherst earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament and quickly piled on three more wins by defeating Farmingdale State, Springfield and Otterbein by a combined 8-0 margin. The Jeffs advanced to the national quarterfinals for only the fourth time in program history but were finally stopped by William Smith in a thrilling 1-0 double-overtime result. Amherst finished the season ranked fifth in the nation with a 14-3-3 record.

Season highlights included a 6-0-1 record at home, a 7-0-2 mark in the NESCAC and a 14-game unbeaten streak that lasted from Sept. 13 to Nov. 8. The Jeffs finished second in the conference in goals scored (52), assists (40), shutouts (9) and corner kicks per game (5.8), and featured the third lowest goals-against average (0.96).

Amherst will have big shoes to fill with the graduation of seven players, six of whom were regulars in the starting lineup. The Class of 2009 posted a 43-14-12 record (.710), qualified for the postseason four times and advanced to the national quarterfinals twice. Leaving a big hole on defense are Kate Bentley, Mary Marvel and Kate Moriarty, who last year anchored one of the best back lines in the NESCAC. A breakout senior season for Moriarty led to her first All-NESCAC selection, while Bentley was named to the ESPN the Magazine Academic All-District Team.

The midfield will need to make up for the loss of Natalie Ferraiolo and three-time All-NESCAC selection Alanna Darling. Ferraiolo’s three goals and three assists last year bumped her career point total to 21, while Darling was the lone NESCAC player named to an ESPN the Magazine Academic All-America Team. Rounding out the Class of 2009 were forwards Stephanie Yesnik and Julia Cummings. Yesnik was a 2005 All-NESCAC selection and finished her career with 10 goals and nine assists.

Returning Forwards
Highlighting the front line this year is Kyla Woodhouse, who will look to build on a breakout sophomore season that earned her an All-NESCAC First Team selection. After scoring three goals as a first-year, Woodhouse ranked in the top six in the NESCAC for goals (8), assists (6) and points (22) last season. Matching Woodhouse’s eight goals and six assists last year was classmate Jackie Hirsch, who scored all three of Amherst’s goals during a shutout win over Springfield in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Also returning valuable experience is sophomore Livia Rizzo, who scored six goals and added four assists during an impressive first season. Senior Cami Farkas and sophomore Allison Dorey will vie for playing time up top, but will also compete for a spot in the back along with Rizzo.

Three-time All-NESCAC First Team Selection and reigning NESCAC Player of the Year Meg Murphy scored 13 goals in 2008.

Returning Midfielders
Pacing the midfield will be tri-captain and three-time All-NESCAC First Team selection Meg Murphy. The 2006 NESCAC Rookie of the Year and last year’s Player of the Year, Murphy has established herself as one of the best goal scorers in the conference. Her 13 goals and 31 points last season were both second highest in the NESCAC, resulting in the first NSCAA All-America selection of her career.

Also serving as one of this year’s captains is Jill Whiting, who will likely miss the beginning of the season due to injury but should factor into the team’s success when she gets healthy. Competing for the remaining starting spots in the midfield will be sophomore Jess Wall, junior Claire Galiette and sophomore Katie Giberson.

Returning Defenders
With the loss of three starting defenders to graduation, Amherst will look to sophomore Jill Kochanek to lead this year’s back line. Kochanek started in all 20 of the Jeffs’ games as a first-year and provided a dominant presence in the back. Returning to play defense after spending her junior season up front is senior Kathy Nolan, who brings valuable experience to a young defense. Competing for the remaining defensive roles will be juniors Hanna St. Marie and Caitlin O’Malley, with Rizzo, Farkas and Dorey also factoring into the mix.

Returning Goalkeepers
Senior tri-captain Lili Ferguson and the sophomore tandem of Allie Horwitz and Claire Bennett will compete for Amherst’s starting goalkeeper role. Horwitz started in 11 of the team’s 20 games last year and made an appearance in six others, leading the NESCAC in goals-against average (0.48) and save percentage (.887) to earn an All-Conference Second Team nod. A 2007 All-NESCAC selection, Ferguson posted a 1.73 goals-against average in 13 games last year. Bennett made three appearances as a first-year and did not allow a goal.

Highlighting Amherst’s new faces is Maureen Griffin, a junior transfer from Division I UC Davis. Griffin will provide a spark to the midfield as a technically-sound playmaker with good speed, and should also contribute to the team’s scoring. Head coach Jen Hughes also welcomes first-years Hannah Cooper, Emily Little, Bridget Keller, Drew Douglas-Steele, Kathryn Nathan and Sandy Shepherd.

Season Outlook
Although Amherst will need to rebuild its defense, the Jeffs return their top four scorers from last year and should once again feature a potent attack.  Coach Hughes is excited about the team’s talent level but notes how Amherst needs to replace the solid leadership that was evident on the field last year. Highlighting the season is a four-game home stand that includes conference matchups with Williams, Middlebury and Bates. The 2009 season opens Saturday, Sept. 12 with a 2 p.m. game against Bowdoin in Amherst.