Amherst Looks to Continue Surge Toward Top of NESCAC
The 2009 season proved to be one of the most successful in Amherst field hockey history, as the Lord Jeffs finished with a 12-5 record and a No. 13 ranking in the final NFHCA Division III National Coaches Poll. Amherst defeated several national powerhouses along the way, opening the season with a 2-0 win over then-top-ranked defending national champion Bowdoin College. The regular season finale brought similar results when the Jeffs went on the road to upset then-fourth-ranked Trinity College, 1-0, to hand the Bantams their first loss of the year. In between those two outstanding wins was a 4-2 victory against then-10th-ranked Middlebury that came in the midst of an impressive six-game winning streak.
Forward Liz Schink '11
The win at Trinity gave Amherst a 6-3 NESCAC record and the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament, marking the program’s highest seed since 2000. Despite being upset by Bowdoin in the NESCAC quarterfinals, Amherst earned an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2000 and only the fourth time in school history. After cruising past Husson University, 3-0, in the opening round to mark the team’s first NCAA Tournament win since 1999, the Jeffs came out on the losing end of a well-played, back-and-forth second-round game against Skidmore College, 4-3.
Thanks to an 8-2 record at home, last year’s Jeffs became only the fifth team in program history—and the first since 2001—to win at least 12 games. Amherst finished tied for third in the NESCAC in shutouts (6) and fourth in goals per game (3.00), goals-against average (1.41) and penalty corners per game (8.88). In addition to placing two players on the All-Conference First Team for the first time since 2001, Amherst earned the 2009 Gladiator by SGI/NFHCA Division III National Academic Team Award for having a team GPA above 3.0.
Amherst lost three exceptional players to graduation, as the Class of 2010 posted a 38-25 record to mark the best four-year record for any group of seniors since 2004. A two-time All-NESCAC selection, three-time All-Region honoree and 2009 NFHCA All-American, Tierney Healey consistently stood out as one of the region’s top defenders. As the team’s sweeper, Healey recorded at least five defensive saves in each of her four seasons with Amherst, leading the conference in the category as a sophomore and senior to finish her career with 21 stops.
Amherst’s offense suffers an equally large blow due to the loss of forwards Molly Malloy and Haley Douds. A 2008 All-NESCAC Second Team selection, Malloy finished with Amherst’s highest point total in each of her first three years. She scored eight goals in 2006, 2008 and 2009, adding an impressive 15 goals as a sophomore. As a senior, Malloy was the team’s second leading scorer with 22 points, giving her 39 goals and 12 assists for her career.
Midfielder Carly Leahy '11
After combining for 14 goals and six assists in her first three years with the team, Douds broke through as a senior by racking up 21 points on 10 goals and an assist to finish her career with 55 points. Of her team-leading 10 goals last year, three came during Amherst’s impressive 4-2 win over nationally-ranked Middlebury. She finished the season tied for second in the NESCAC in game-winning goals (5), tied for eighth in goals and tied for 13th in points.
With the loss of Malloy and Douds, Amherst will look to sophomore Katie McMahon to step into more of a leading role on offense. As Amherst’s first player off the bench last year, McMahon led the team in scoring with 10 goals and five assists, and this season should once again be a major impact player on the front line. Also playing up front will be senior Liz Schink, who notched five goals in 2009 to bring her career total to 12.
Other key scoring threats include midfielders Carly Dudzik ’12 and Chrissy Cantore ’12, who each scored five goals last year and have been regular starters since their first seasons with the team. Dudzik added five assists last season as an All-NESCAC First Team and All-Region Second Team selection.
Senior Carly Leahy returns a great deal of experience to the midfield, as she recorded four assists in each of the past two seasons while starting in a combined 27 games. Junior midfielder Casey Silver started in 12 games and picked up three assists as a sophomore, while classmate Rachel Lupien will split time between the midfield and front line. Sophomores Hillary Densen and Nomi Conway will round out the midfield this season.
The loss of Healey—a true sweeper for four years—to graduation may result in a new look on defense, but Amherst returns three players who started in all 17 games on the back line a year ago. Leading the group is Rachel Egan ’11, a three-year starter and the team’s lone senior defender. Egan joins Leahy and Schink as this year’s tri-captains.
Defender Rachel Egan '11
Joining Egan to form an extremely talented trio of defenders are juniors Stephanie Clegg and Sarah McCarrick. Notably, McCarrick scored three goals and had a team-leading six assists last season as Amherst’s first option on penalty strokes. Densen, who may split her time between defense and the midfield, and Mary Katherine McNeil will round out the returning defenders as strong rising sophomores.
Competing for the starting goalkeeper role will be sophomore Sarah Wise and first-year Claudia Easton. Wise—the team’s Most Improved Player last year—made one appearance last season, saving the only shot she faced in 22 minutes of action during a win against Smith College.
Joining Easton as this season’s newcomers are first-years Sarah Canning, Miranda Dershimer, Alex Philie and Krista Zsitvay. Amherst also welcomes assistant coach Emily Skipp, a 2009 graduate of Trinity College and standout defender for the Bantam field hockey team.
This should once again be another strong year for the NESCAC, which has featured at least one team in the NCAA Championship Semifinals each year since 2003. Head coach Carol Knerr and the Lord Jeffs have improved their winning percentage each season since 2005, with last year’s appearance in the national tournament bringing the program to the next level. “Getting a taste of the NCAA Tournament last year has really inspired the team,” Knerr says. “We have been making positive strides each year. We have a lot of talent and a great team dynamic, and the players are hungry for the upcoming season.”
The 2010 season will begin with two conference games in as many days, with the Lord Jeffs traveling to take on Bowdoin College Saturday, Sept. 11, before wrapping up the Maine road trip Sunday, Sept. 12 at Bates College. Amherst will return to Gooding Field Friday, Sept. 17, when they host national powerhouse Tufts University at 4:30 p.m. The Lord Jeffs are 14-4 on their home field in the past two years.