Lord Jeffs Coming Off Stellar 25-4 Season

Contact: Justin Long

Amherst's 25-4 record last year marked the highest winning percentage of Sue Everden's 25-year tenure (.862).

The Amherst volleyball program has consistently been one of the best in New England for more than two decades, but the 2010 Lord Jeffs stood out by posting the highest winning percentage in the 25-year tenure of head coach Sue Everden. Thanks to a 16-match win streak that spanned more than a month, Amherst earned the top seed in the NESCAC Championship and qualified for the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2007. Battling injuries down the stretch, the Jeffs would be upset by Tufts in the conference semifinals before falling to Springfield in the national tournament’s second round, finishing the year with a 25-4 record (.862).

Amherst had to part ways with what proved to be one of the most outstanding senior classes in program history, but Everden is excited about the upcoming season. “I think we have good balance this year,” she says. “We have a really good mix of players. We’ll have a new look with more rotating, so our success early on will depend on how quickly we can mold as a team.” Everden begins her 26th season at Amherst with a career record of 564-222 (.718).

Highlighting this year’s team are outside hitters Cristy Meier ’12 and KC Kanoff ’12, who have been mainstays in the Amherst attack since 2008. Of the 87 matches Amherst has played in the past three years, there have been only eight in which neither Meier nor Kanoff led the team in kills. Meier has finished with the team high on 52 occasions and Kanoff has earned the distinction 20 times, while there have been seven instances in which they tied for the team lead in kills. “Cristy and KC are extremely dependable,” Everden says. “There’s no flair with them—they just get the job done. They lead the team by example.”

Meier enters the 2011 season with 1,050 kills to her credit, thanks to three consecutive years of leading Amherst in the category. Her numbers have been incredibly steady, as she finished fifth in the NESCAC in kills per set in 2008 (3.16) before landing sixth in 2009 (3.55) and sixth in 2010 (3.49). Her hitting percentage has increased with each season, climbing from .279 (2008) to .285 (2009) and .295 (2010).

KC Kanoff '12 has been one of
Amherst's best all-around players since 2008.

Kanoff, meanwhile, is an outstanding all-around player who is consistently among the team’s leaders in kills, digs and service aces. She finished second to Meier in kills in each of the past three seasons (2.50 in 2008, 3.05 in 2009, 2.71 in 2010), landing in the NESCAC’s top 15 each time. Kanoff begins her senior season with 861 kills and 872 digs, as she is trying to become the first player since Jaclyn DeMais ’08 to reach 1,000 in each category.

Rounding out the group is Emily Waterhouse ’13, who has spent the past nine months recovering from a torn ACL but should play a more prominent role as the season progresses. The Lord Jeffs hit .247 as a team last year for the second highest average in the NESCAC, and they will have to keep up that pace in order to be successful in 2011. “With the loss of Jackie [Berkley] and Laura [Hyman], we probably won’t get as many points out of our middle hitters this year,” Everden says. “We’ll really need our outside hitters to step up and be big for us.”

Once again setting up the Amherst attack will be Callie Neilson ’13, who led the NESCAC and finished sixth in all of Division III in assists per set (11.28) as a sophomore. Neilson recorded at least 50 assists on five occasions last year, including 55 against Williams and a career-best 58 against Coast Guard. “Callie was instrumental in our success last year,” Everden says. “She sees the court and distributes the ball so well. We’ll need her to keep that up.”

Amherst takes a big hit at the middle hitter position with the loss of Jackie Berkley ’11 and Laura Hyman ’11, who helped the team finish second in the NESCAC in blocks per set (2.29) last year. Looking to help maintain the Lord Jeffs’ status as one of the conference’s best blocking teams will be Abigail Hunter ’13, Meghan McCafferty ’14 and Lauren Antion ’15.

Hunter is an exceptional blocker, but she demonstrated her offensive ability last year when she recorded 11 kills on a .346 hitting percentage against Saint Michael’s. “Abby has proven she can play a major role,” Everden says. “Lauren is a very good player, and I think Meghan is ready to go after learning the ropes last year. In order to be successful, we’ll need our middle hitters to be defensive minded.”

Mary Reiser '12 put together some dominant stretches in 2010.

Coach Everden is looking for Mary Reiser ’12 and Claire Hoffman ’14 to play prominent roles as opposite hitters this season. Reiser demonstrated her potential during a dominant three-match stretch in 2010, as she recorded 31 kills and only three errors on 67 attempts (.418) against Westfield State, Coast Guard and Bates. Her 11 kills against Westfield State and Coast Guard were the second most on the team, while her nine kills at Bates were a team high. “Mary and Claire are both excellent blockers,” Everden says. “I expect them to be even greater offensive threats than they were last year.”

Amherst takes another big hit with the loss of defensive specialists Erin Camp ’11 and Rachel Yorke ’11, who last year helped the Lord Jeffs boast the second highest digs-per-set average in all of Division III (22.22). Yorke is one of the best defensive players the program has ever seen, notably finishing her senior season ranked sixth in the nation in digs per set (6.84).

Although Yorke was the backbone of Amherst’s defense for four years, Coach Everden welcomes five promising defensive specialists to the 2011 squad. Leading the way are Kristin Keeno ’13 and Devin Pence ’14, each of whom played a pivotal role on the back line last year. Both players have demonstrated the potential to lead the Lord Jeffs in digs on any given night, with Pence notably recording 24 against Connecticut College and 18 against Tufts during her rookie season. Keeno and Pence also combined for 31 digs in a three-set win over Wesleyan during last year’s opening weekend.

Joining the team are Kellyn Conant ’15, Kelsey Ayers ’15 and Karina Kossler ’15, who will look to provide significant depth in the back. “I think we have great versatility back there,” Everden says. “Devin has that infectious spirit we need, and Kristin reads hitters very well. Rachel and Erin did a great job leading them last year—I feel really good about this group.”

The Lord Jeffs will kick off the 2011 season on Friday, Sept. 9, when they head to Johnson & Wales for four matches in two days. After taking on Bridgewater State and Springfield on Friday, Amherst will play against Keene State and Wheaton on Saturday.