Women's Hockey Eyes Return Trip to NCAA Tournament

Contact: Ben Badua


Fresh off of two consecutive national titles, Amherst opened the 2010-11 campaign with a 3-3-2 mark before winning 10 of its next 11 games. After suffering a 2-1 loss to Bowdoin, the Jeffs closed out their regular season slate with four-straight victories, outscoring opponents 26-11 over that span en route to the No. 2 seed in the NESCAC Championship.

Cruising to a 5-0 triumph over No. 7 Colby in the quarterfinals, Amherst earned a hard-fought 4-3 overtime win over No. 3 Trinity to advance to a fifth-consecutive league final. Dropping the championship game 4-3 to top-seeded Middlebury, the Lord Jeffs finished the season with a 19-6-2 overall record and a 13-2-1 league ledger.

“The biggest frustration of last year is that we never had all the pieces of our game come together,” said head coach Jim Plumer, now in his ninth season. “We rarely had the offense, defense and special teams playing well at the same time. I think the goal this year is to get all three facets of our game playing consistently well throughout the season. If we do that, I think we have enough talent to compete.”

Senior co-captain Stephanie Clegg

Losing a senior class that posted an 86-17-10 record en route to a pair of national championships, Amherst will turn to Emily Vitale ’12, Stephanie Clegg ’12 and Geneva Lloyd ’13 to help fill the squad’s leadership void. Appearing in all 27 of the Jeffs contests last season, Amherst’s dynamic trio will look to make a positive impact both on and off the ice.

“They are phenomenal people and players,” said Plumer. “They’re impact players on the ice. Geneva is a really humble, talented leader and Emily and Clegg have proved to be really clutch throughout their careers and I think all three have the ability to help change the momentum of games.”

With the departure of starter Caroline Hu ’11, Amherst will look to a pair of solid veterans to compete for playing time between the pipes. Going 5-1-1 last season, senior Sinead Murphy finished with a 1.89 goals-against average and a 0.876 save percentage. Splitting time with Hu during the team’s 2009-10 title run, Murphy has made 21 career starts, notching a 14-2-4 record with a 1.51 GAA, 0.902 save percentage and four shutouts.

“Sinead has had some strong moments as our number one goalie,” said Plumer. “She has wins in her career over Plattsburgh, Middlebury and Elmira. We have confidence she can play at that level.”

Also vying for playing time will be Kerri Stuart ’14 who saw limited action as a first-year reserve goaltender, posting a 3-0-0 mark with a 0.89 goals-against average and a 0.927 save percentage.

“Kerri had some real flashes in practice last year,” said Plumer. “She’s worked really hard over the summer to get herself ready to compete both physically and mentally. I think that Kerri and Sinead will push each other throughout the season and the competition will be great for them individually and the team.”

Junior co-captain Geneva Lloyd

Continuing to be one of the team’s strengths despite the loss of two-time All-America Randi Zukas ’11, the Amherst defense should one again be one of the squad’s most reliable units after producing three of the team’s top four scorers last season.

Headlining a talented and balanced group is Lloyd who earned All-America honors a year ago after leading the Jeffs in scoring for the second-consecutive season. A two-time all-NESCAC selection, she ranked first amongst all defensemen nationally in points (32), tallying the second-most assists in the league (20) while netting 12 goals.

Especially effective on the power play, Lloyd collected a conference-high 23 points on the man-advantage, helping Amherst to the nation’s best power-play percentage (32.2). In her first two seasons, the Calgary native has amassed 63 points on 21 goals and 42 helpers.

Joining Lloyd on the blue line are Clegg and sophomores Ashley Salerno and Hayley Opperman. Clegg ranked seventh in the NESCAC in points (27) a season ago while sitting sixth in goals (13) and ninth in assists (14). Leading the nation in power-play goals (10), Clegg will again look to bolster the Jeffs’ man-up unit.

Another offensive-minded defenseman who figures to fill the void left by Zukas, Salerno enjoyed a stellar statistical season as a rookie, ranking fifth amongst all NESCAC first-years in points (15) with eight goals and seven assists.  Opperman played a regular shift last season and will be counted on to play the role of a veteran this season.

Rounding out an Amherst defense that finished seventh nationally and first in the NESCAC in penalty-killing percentage (90.5) in 2010-11 are first-years Kate Beemer, Anne Gillard, and Melissa Martin.

“We feel great about having a good foundation of talented returners, including some of the top defensemen in the league,” said Plumer. “Hayley has also looked like a different, more confident player.  Our teams have traditionally been built around defense and I think we can still say that about this team.”

Senior co-captain Emily Vitale

Hoping to help fill the void left by four-time All-NESCAC honoree Courtney Hanlon ’11, who graduated as just the sixth player in program history to crack the 100-point plateau, is a balanced front line led by Vitale and fellow senior Ellen Swiontkowski.

Finishing last season tied for eighth in points (26), Swiontkowski also sat tied for fourth in the NESCAC in both goals (10) and assists (16).  An integral part of an Amherst offense that ranked sixth in the nation in scoring (3.52) a year ago, Vitale will look to improve upon an 18-point junior campaign in which she tied for fourth in the league in helpers with 16.

Figuring to play larger roles this season are Josie Fisher ’12, who tallied eight goals and four assists in 2010-11, Megan Doyen ’13, Erin Babineau ’12, and Kaitlyn McInnis ’13. Doyen enters this season with 14 career points on eight goals and six assists, while Babineau and McInnis combined for three goals and eight assists last year.

Sophomore forwards Barrett McBride, Courtney Baranek and Avery Stone will look to make an impact along with first-years Emily Flom, Tori Salmon and Madeline Tank.

“We’re going to be a team that works hard to create scoring opportunities for our forwards,” said Plumer. “We’ll continue to be balanced. In the past we have been able to get offense from all four lines and that’s made us difficult to play against.  We will continue to need everyone to collectively chip in to be successful.”

2011-12 SCHEDULE
After a season-opening home-and-home against conference rival Hamilton, Amherst will open play at the Panther/Cardinal Classic against USCHO preseason No. 4 Plattsburgh before facing the winner of No. 3 Middlebury and No. 8 Elmira.

Following a pair of games against Wesleyan and a non-conference matchup with Oswego, Amherst faces No. 1 RIT on Dec. 11 before later playing Middlebury in a NESCAC weekend on Jan. 13-14.

Amherst closes out the regular season with a pair of series against No. 9 Trinity and Bowdoin before the start of the NESCAC Championships on Feb. 25.