Athletics

Amherst Returns Deep Roster for Run at NESCAC Glory

2009 SEASON RECAP

The Amherst College volleyball team posted its fourth consecutive 20-plus win season in 2009, finishing the year with a 20-8 overall mark. The Lord Jeffs wrapped up regular-season play with a 6-4 record against New England Small College Athletic Conference opposition, earning the No. 5 seed in the conference tournament. Amherst upended No. 4 seed Middlebury College in the NESCAC Championship Quarterfinals by a score of 3-2, before falling to top-seeded Tufts University in the Semifinals to close out the year.

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Rachel Yorke '11

The Lord Jeffs jumped out of the gates last season, winning seven of their first eight matches. After falling to 8-3 on the year with 3-1 losses against Middlebury and at Williams, Amherst rolled off 10 wins in its next 11 matches. Amherst won seven straight from October 3-14, including a string of five consecutive 3-0 results.

With unfavorable draws at both the Hall of Fame Classic and in the NESCAC Championship, Amherst won only two of its final six matches to end the year. Despite the late season skid, the Jeffs ranked fourth in the NESCAC in both hitting percentage (.221) and digs (16.62 d/s) for the year, while also ranking third in the conference in blocks (1.77 (b/s).

KEY LOSSES

Amherst graduated just one senior in May, with defensive specialist Bethany Belisle wrapping up a successful tenure in the purple and white. Belisle played in 121 matches during her four years at Amherst, taking the court for 437 sets. A senior tri-captain in 2009, Belisle finished her career with 1,103 digs art Amherst for a career average of 2.52 digs per set. The fiery competitor also added 84 aces during her career, including a career-high 37 as a rookie in 2006. Belisle also earned NESCAC Fall All-Academic Honors as a senior for maintaining a grade point average above 3.35.

RETURNING PLAYERS

Amherst head coach Sue Everden enters her 25th season at the helm of the Lord Jeff program with perhaps her most experience squad ever. On a roster of 15 players, Everden finds depth and senior leadership at every position. Leading the way for the Jeffs is a trio of senior captains, including libero Rachel Yorke and middle hitters Jackie Berkley and Laura Hyman. Classmates Katherine Jordan and Erin Camp will provide guidance to a deep lineup at the setter and defensive specialist positions as well.

Yorke missed five matches in 2009, but played well enough to garner nearly every regional honor awarded. A 2009 NESCAC All-Academic and All-Sportsmanship honoree, Yorke was named to the All-NESCAC Second Team, while also earning AVCA All-New England honors. While finishing the year ranked second in the NESCAC in digs per set (5.11), Yorke recorded at least 20 digs in 12 matches in 2009.

In the middle, Berkley and Hyman combined for 175 blocks in 2009, while providing the Lord Jeffs with a unique 1-2 punch of offensive firepower down the middle. With such dymanic middle hitters, Jordan and sophomore setter Callie Neilson are consistently provided with three options for distribution. Camp joins Yorke on the back line as a defensive force that other teams are forced to avoid if they have any hopes for a kill.

On the right side, Amherst welcomes back a healthy Mary Reiser to the fold. After missing the entire 2009 season, the 6’2” Reiser will be a great addition to the front line, while also allowing Amherst’s outside hitters to return to their natural position.

Jackie Berkley_erik
Jackie Berkley '11

On the left, the deadly combination of Katherine Kanoff and Christy Meier return as experienced juniors to lead the Lord Jeff attack. Meier led Amherst in 2009 with 3.55 kills per set, while hitting a team-leading .285 clip. Kanoff’s .233 hitting percentage was fourth best on the year behind Meier, Berkley and Hyman, but her 3.05 kills per set trailed only Meier. Sophomore Emily Waterhouse played in 27 matches as a rookie last season, and will complement Meier and Kanoff nicely.

Coach Everden expects big things out of a sophomores Neilson and defensive specialist Kristin Keeno based on impressive late season form. Alongside classmate Abigail Hunter in the middle, the sophomore class will be expected to help make the Lord Jeffs as strong defensively as anyone in the conference.

NEWCOMERS

The Lord Jeffs welcome a trio of newcomers into the fold this fall, with each player highly anticipated and expected to contribute from day one. Meghan McCafferty is a 6’2” middle blocker who will provide the Jeffs with another large frame at the net, while Spokane, Washington native Claire Hoffmann will give support to Reiser on the right side. Fellow first-year Devin Pence joins Amherst’s defensive specialist ranks after leading her club team to the junior Olympic title last year.

SEASON OUTLOOK

Once again this season the Lord Jeffs will open the year with a tough task at the Wellesley Invitational on September 10-11. Amherst will face the hosts from Wellesley and Little Three rival Wesleyan University, before hosting Emerson College for a midweek match on Sept. 14. The following weekend, Amherst heads to Middlebury College to open NESCAC regular season play. Once again in 2010, the Jeffs will host the Amherst Classic, before traveling across the bridge for the Hall of Fame Classic at nearby Smith College.