Five Reasons to be in Amherst This Weekend

#1: Bowdoin Back to Stop Women’s Basketball’s Home Winning Streak

Photo by Matt Milless, D3photography

Bowdoin College snapped the Amherst women’s basketball team’s 25-game home winning streak on Jan. 30, 2009. The Lord Jeffs have since won 38 consecutive games in LeFrak Gymnasium, but the Polar Bears will be back in town Saturday afternoon in an attempt to play the role of spoiler once again. Bowdoin is familiar with the concept of home court advantage, having won 77 consecutive games on its own floor from 2001-07.

Bowdoin (14-3, 1-2 NESCAC) won 14 of the first 16 games of this series, but the teams have gone 3-3 in their past six meetings to develop an outstanding rivalry. Amherst and Bowdoin have combined to win all 10 NESCAC titles since the conference’s championship format began in 2001, with the Jeffs earning their first in 2008 thanks to a win over the Polar Bears in the semifinals. Bowdoin returned the favor in 2009 by snapping Amherst’s home winning streak on a buzzer-beater, following up with a 49-46 win over the Jeffs in the conference’s title game. Amherst pushed right back in the rivalry last year with a 72-63 win in Brunswick, marking the Jeffs’ first-ever win at Bowdoin.

Before the Jeffs and Polar Bears resume their rivalry on Saturday, fans will be treated to a rematch of last year’s NESCAC finals when Amherst hosts Colby (13-3, 2-1 NESCAC) Friday night. The Jeffs have won nine straight in the series, but the Mules are riding a three-game win streak that includes a 90-88, triple-overtime victory against Bates and a 67-54 win against a talented Tufts squad.

Friday’s game between No. 2 Amherst (17-1, 3-0 NESCAC) and Colby will begin at 8 p.m., with Saturday’s showdown between the Jeffs and Polar Bears set to tip off at 4 p.m. Both games will feature live statistics and a webcast.

#2: Swimming & Diving Honoring Exceptional Senior Class

Photo by Kate Berry '12

The seniors on this year’s Amherst men’s and women’s swimming & diving teams make up one of the most accomplished classes in program history, but this Saturday will be the final chance to see them compete at Pratt Pool. With powerhouse MIT coming to town, fans could be in store for some incredible performances.

Prior to the meet, Amherst will honor seniors Alex Fraser, Ryan Colby, Reid Fitzgerald and Walker Peterson, who have helped the men’s program post a dual meet record of 25-5 in four years. Led by Fraser’s three national titles in freestyle events, the Class of 2011 has been one of the most successful in school history, helping Amherst finish 10th at the 2008 NCAA Championships before placing a program-best fifth in 2009 and 2010. The Lord Jeff men have finished third at each of the past three NESCAC Championships, and this year they have a legitimate chance to take home the program’s first-ever conference crown.

On the women’s side, Amherst will be honoring seniors Brooke Bennett, Kendra Stern, Louisa Zuo, Erin Kennedy, Andrea Jensen and Meggie Meisinger, who have won 27 dual meets and lost only three. With Stern highlighting the group as a 10-time national champion, the Class of 2011 has helped the program maintain its status as one of the best in Division III, finishing among the top six at the national championships in each of their three years and placing second at the NESCAC meet in each of the past two.

The eighth-ranked Amherst men (6-0) are gunning for the program’s first undefeated dual meet season since 2004, but this year’s seniors are 0-3 all-time against the Engineers of MIT, who are 7-0 in dual meets and ranked fifth in Division III. The Amherst women are also ranked eighth and will be tested against the sixth-ranked Engineers (8-0). Saturday’s meet is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m.

#3: Unbeaten Men’s Basketball Seeking Revenge against Colby, Bowdoin

Photo by Matt Milless, D3photography

Amherst is one of only five undefeated men’s basketball teams remaining in Division III, but this weekend the Lord Jeffs are facing two teams that have had the upper hand in recent years. Amherst has a chance to exact revenge on Bowdoin and Colby, which beat the Jeffs by a combined five points last season.

Colby (9-8, 1-2 NESCAC) has won three straight against Amherst, including a 72-68, come-from-behind result in last year’s regular-season game. The Jeffs and Mules met again in the 2010 conference quarterfinals, when Colby closed the game on an 18-2 run for a 67-49 victory. Amherst ranks second in Division III in rebounding margin (+11.3) but will have its hands full with Colby’s Mike Russell ’11, who leads the NESCAC in rebounding (12.9) and pulls down nearly five offensive boards per game.

Each of Bowdoin’s (11-4, 1-2 NESCAC) past two victories against Amherst has come by only one point, including a 65-64 result in the 2008 NESCAC semifinals. The Lord Jeffs led last year’s regular-season meeting for most of the way and held a 10-point advantage with 7:30 to play, but the Polar Bears took the lead on a layup with two seconds left, bringing the final score to 69-68. Fans on Saturday will be treated to one of the best all-around players in the NESCAC, as Bowdoin’s Will Hanley ’12 is averaging a double-double (19.7 ppg, 10.2 rpg) as the conference’s leading scorer.

The Lord Jeffs (16-0, 3-0 NESCAC), who have gone from unranked to No. 6 in the Top 25 Poll, haven’t begun a season with such dominance since the 2006-07 squad won its first 23 games en route to the program’s first-ever NCAA title. Friday’s game between Amherst and Colby will begin at 6 p.m., with Saturday’s showdown between the Jeffs and Polar Bears set to tip off at 2 p.m. Both games will feature live statistics and a webcast.

#4: Women’s Hockey Gunning for First Place in NESCAC

Photo by Chloe McKenzie '14

The Amherst women’s ice hockey team can take sole possession of first place in the NESCAC with a strong showing against Colby and a little help from Trinity, but the Mules know a thing or two about pulling off an upset against the Lord Jeffs. The two teams will play Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m., with live webcasts available free of charge.

Amherst opened its 2009-10 season series against Colby with a 6-2 win in Waterville, but the next day the Mules pulled off a 3-2 upset thanks to three first-period goals, marking then-top-ranked Amherst’s first NESCAC loss since Dec. 2, 2006. The two teams would meet again in the conference quarterfinals, where the Jeffs advanced with a 10-1 victory.

Amherst is still looking to get into a goal-scoring groove, averaging 2.94 per game after leading the conference at 4.03 per contest last year. This is about the time of the season the Jeffs kicked into high gear a year ago, averaging 4.25 goals in their final eight regular-season games before bumping that mark to 5.2 in the postseason. The defense has allowed only 11 goals in the past eight games after allowing 17 in the first eight, with Randi Zukas ’11, Stephanie Clegg ’12 and Geneva Lloyd ’13 leading Amherst in points as three of the nation’s top defensemen.

The Mules have suffered seven one-goal losses this season, but last weekend they earned a pair of one-goal wins, including a 1-0 result against then-7th-ranked Trinity. Colby tends to be involved in low-scoring affairs, with 11 of its games featuring three or fewer combined goals. Stephanie Scarpato ’11, who recorded three points in last year’s 3-2 win over Amherst, leads Colby in goals (6), assists (6) and points (12). The Jeffs will be rooting for No. 9 Trinity to knock off No. 7 Middlebury on Saturday night, which would allow Amherst to slide into first place.

#5: Squash Teams Returning Competitiveness to Little Three Championships

Photo by Erik Andrews '09

Williams College’s squash teams have absolutely dominated the Little Three Championships for the past decade, but things should be different this time around. The Lord Jeff women have been inching their way toward the Ephs for the past four years, and this week they are separated by only three spots in the national rankings.

Each of the past 11 Little Three Championships has resulted in Williams breezing past Amherst and Wesleyan en route to the men’s and women’s titles, with the Lord Jeffs placing second on each occasion. The Ephs haven’t lost to either of their Little Three counterparts since February 1999, when Amherst earned a 5-4 win on the men’s side and a 6-3 victory in the women’s match.

When the Amherst women’s team’s seniors arrived on campus in 2007, the Lord Jeffs were ranked 18th in the nation and the Ephs were sixth, but the Class of 2011 has helped to bump Amherst to 12th while Williams has dropped to ninth. The Amherst women put in a great performance during a 7-2 loss to 10th-ranked Brown earlier this year, winning two matches while two others required five games and two more required four. Notably, Hayley Milbourn ’11 and Anne Piper ’13 earned wins in the No. 1 and No. 3 matches, respectively.

The Little Three Championships will take place Saturday, Jan. 29. Amherst’s teams will take on Wesleyan at 11 a.m., followed by the Cardinals going up against the Ephs at 1 p.m. Amherst and Williams will begin their matches at 3 p.m. to close out the event.