Lord Jeffs Eye Pair of NESCAC Titles This Weekend

AMHERST, MA – Amherst College will be competing for a pair of NESCAC titles this weekend when the women’s soccer team resumes its postseason at Williams College and the volleyball team kicks off tournament play at Tufts University. This weekend’s action kicks off Friday, Nov. 6 at 8 p.m. when fifth-seeded Amherst takes on fourth-seeded Middlebury in the volleyball championship quarterfinals, with the second-seeded women’s soccer team set to challenge third-seeded Middlebury Saturday at 1:30 p.m. for a spot in Sunday’s finals.

Sophomore outside hitter Cristy Meier has been a key to Amherst's success this season.

#5 Amherst (19-7, 6-4) vs. #4 Middlebury (20-5, 7-3)
Friday, Nov. 6, 8 p.m. * Tufts University
Cousens Gymnasium * Medford, MA
Live coverage: None

Amherst is looking to advance to the NESCAC finals for a fourth consecutive year, as the Lord Jeffs have squared off against archrival Williams in each of the past three championship matches. Amherst boasts an 18-7 record in conference tournament play, and has failed to advance past the quarterfinal round only once (2005) in 10 appearances. The Lord Jeffs put together an 11-2 stretch heading into the final weekend of the regular season and seemed poised to reach the 20-win mark for a fourth consecutive year, but they suffered tough losses to Bowdoin and Tufts at home. Amherst has not lost three consecutive matches since 2003.

The Panthers, meanwhile, reached the 20-win plateau for the first time since 2004 as they closed out the regular season on a 10-1 run since losing to Connecticut College nearly one month ago. After falling at Williams last Wednesday, Middlebury regrouped with wins over Colby and Bates to finish the conference schedule. Middlebury is looking to advance to the NESCAC semifinals for the first time since 2004.

The only other meeting between Amherst and Middlebury in NESCAC Championship history occurred in 2002, when the third-seeded Lord Jeffs handed the seventh-seeded Panthers a 3-1 loss. These two teams have already faced each other twice this season. Middlebury took the non-conference match on Sept. 26 with a 3-1 decision and Amherst responded in the conference contest with a 3-2 win a week later. The Panthers are 6-3 against the tournament field, while the Jeffs hold a 4-6 mark.

Although Friday’s match between Amherst and Middlebury will not feature live audio or video, both semifinal matches and the championship bout will feature live webcasts. For information on the other quarterfinal matches, check out the NESCAC’s complete championship preview.

Quarterfinals – Friday, Nov. 6 at Tufts
No. 8 Wesleyan vs. No. 1 Tufts - 5 p.m.
No. 7 Bowdoin vs. No. 2 Williams - 5 p.m.
No. 6 Trinity vs. No. 3 Connecticut College - 8 p.m.
No. 5 Amherst vs. No. 4 Middlebury - 8 p.m.

Semifinals – Saturday, Nov. 7 at Tufts
Winner No. 1/No. 8 vs. Winner No. 4/No. 5 (1 p.m.)
Winner No. 2/No. 7 vs. Winner No. 3/No. 6 (3:30 p.m.)

Championship – Sunday, Nov. 8 at Tufts
Semifinal winners (12 p.m.)

Junior forward Kyla Woodhouse is one of five Amherst players with at least 10 points this season.

#2 Amherst (12-2-1, 7-1-1) vs. #3 Middlebury (11-2-2, 7-2-0)
Saturday, Nov. 7, 1:30 p.m. * Williams College
Cole Field * Williamstown, MA
Live coverage: Webcast

After suffering its only conference loss to Williams on Oct. 3, Amherst constructed a 6-0-1 record to close out the regular season and outscored opponents by an 18-2 margin. Even with the dominating performance down the stretch, the Jeffs may have missed out on the semifinals were it not for the efforts of 2008 NESCAC Player of the Year Meg Murphy, who had both goals—including the game winner less than two minutes into overtime on a free kick—in a 2-1 victory against a pesky Wesleyan squad this past Sunday. Amherst returns to the semifinals for the third time in four years with the hope of winning the program’s third championship (2001, 2003).

Pursuing its third conference title (2000, 2006), Middlebury opened the 2009 season with a seven-game winning streak and outscored opponents 17-2 during that period before faltering at Amherst on Oct. 10, 6-1. Like Amherst, Middlebury also needed overtime to get past its quarterfinal opponent, Bowdoin, as junior Annie Rowell’s team-leading 10th goal of the season during the 97th minute was the only one in the game. Offensively, the Panthers are tied with the Jeffs for second in the conference with 2.33 goals per game while the defense sits in fourth with a 0.69 goals-against average.

The Jeffs and the Panthers have faced each other four times in the postseason, with three of those four meetings occurring during the past three years. In a playoff series which stands at 2-2 for each team, Middlebury has played the role of spoiler in recent meetings. The Panthers upset the top-seeded Jeffs for the 2006 championship in overtime, 1-0, then returned a year later and upset the higher-seeded Jeffs once again during the first round by the same score. Amherst evened its all-time tournament record against Middlebury in 2008 with a 1-0 win of its own during the semifinals at Williams.

Both semifinal games and the championship match will feature live webcasts. For information on the other semifinal game, check out the NESCAC’s complete championship preview.

Quarterfinals – Sunday, Nov. 1 at higher seeds
No. 1 Williams def. No. 8 Colby, 4-0
No. 2 Amherst def. No. 7 Wesleyan, 2-1 (OT)
No. 3 Middlebury def. No. 6 Bowdoin, 1-0 (OT)
No. 4 Tufts def. No. 5 Trinity, 2-1

Semifinals – Saturday, Nov. 7 at Williams
No. 1 Williams vs. No. 4 Tufts (11 a.m.)
No. 2 Amherst vs. No. 3 Middlebury (1:30 p.m.)

Championship – Sunday, Nov. 8 at Williams
Semifinal winners (12 p.m.)