Amherst Ready for First Winter Clash with Williams

AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College and Williams College winter teams will resume their rivalries this weekend when the Lord Jeffs and Ephs clash in several highly anticipated contests. Among the weekend’s highlights is a men’s and women’s basketball doubleheader that features four nationally-ranked teams who are a combined 48-0 this season.

MEN’S ICE HOCKEY – Friday, Jan. 7 * 7 p.m. (Orr Rink)
#3 Williams (7-0-1, 4-0-0 NESCAC) @ Amherst (5-2-2, 3-0-1 NESCAC)

Amherst is riding a three-game win streak against the Ephs, out-scoring them 16-3 during that stretch.

Live Coverage: Friday’s game will feature a free webcast courtesy of JeffCast. Hugh Campbell, who provides play-by-play commentary for all of Amherst’s home games, will be on the call.

Game Preview: Amherst has a chance to hand Williams its first loss of the season for the second time in as many years when the third-ranked Ephs come to town on Friday. The Lord Jeffs have out-scored their archrivals by a 16-3 margin during their three-game winning streak, including a 6-0 result the last time they met in Orr Rink. Williams and fourth-ranked Bowdoin have been stealing headlines for the NESCAC this season, but Amherst can join the conversation and take sole possession of first place in the conference standings with a win over the Ephs.

Amherst is allowing 1.89 goals per game for the sixth lowest average in Division III, but Williams boasts the second best scoring offense in the nation (4.75). If the Ephs want to maintain that pace they will need to take advantage of their man-up opportunities against a Lord Jeff squad that has surrendered only three power play goals in 41 chances. While Amherst has one of the best penalty kill units in Division III (92.7 percent), Williams has one of the lowest power play conversion rates (12.5 percent).

The Amherst offense is still trying to find its rhythm, having averaged 3.33 goals and scored on only 9 of 51 power play chances (17.6 percent) through its first nine games. Eddie Effinger ’12 has paced the offense with five goals and five assists, but he is the Jeffs’ only player with at least three goals on the year. The Ephs, meanwhile, have seven players who have scored at least three times. Williams has surrendered a nation-low 1.00 goals per game thanks in large part to goaltender Ryan Purdy ’12, who leads Division III in goals-against average (0.99) and save percentage (.957). The Ephs are the only undefeated team remaining, but they have not played a game since Dec. 12.

WOMEN’S SWIMMING AND DIVING – Saturday, Jan. 8 * 1 p.m. (Samuelson-Muir Pool)
#5 Amherst (4-0) @ #4 Williams (3-1)

Saturday's meet will feature three swimmers who combined for eight NCAA titles last year.

Live Coverage: Williams College will provide a live webcast of Saturday’s meet for $15.  

Meet Preview: Saturday’s meet will feature three swimmers who combined to win eight national titles last year, as Williams placed third as a team at the NCAA Championships and Amherst finished sixth. The Ephs have won the past two dual meets in this rivalry, including a 207-91 result last year, but the Jeffs look stronger than they did a year ago thanks in part to an exceptional first-year class that should play a significant role in the scoring this weekend. The Ephs’ lone loss of the season came at the hands of Division I Fordham, while one of their wins came against Boston College.

Several pool records could be broken on Saturday with so many NCAA champions competing. All eyes will be on Amherst’s Kendra Stern ’11 and Williams’ Caroline Wilson ’13 in the freestyle events. While Stern won the 100- and 200-yard freestyle events at Nationals last year (with two national record times), Wilson won the 500- and 1,650-yard freestyle races with two records of her own, adding another victory in the 400-yard individual medley. In last year’s Amherst-Williams dual meet, Stern won the 100 free, 200 free and 200 IM en route to a National Swimmer of the Week award.

The only other Lord Jeff to pick up a win against Williams last year was Meggie Meisinger ’11, who had the highest score in the 1-meter dive. Meisinger is having a strong season and has been joined by two promising first-years, as the Jeffs should be more competitive on the boards this time around. Williams has the edge in the butterfly events thanks to Logan Todhunter ’12, who last year won national titles in the 100 and 200 with a pair of NCAA records, also coming out on top in the 200 IM.

MEN’S BASKETBALL – Saturday, Jan. 8 * 2 p.m. (LeFrak Gymnasium)
#2 Williams (13-0, 0-0 NESCAC) @ #17 Amherst (11-0, 0-0 NESCAC)

Amherst and Williams boast the top two scoring margins in all of Division III.

Live Coverage: Saturday’s game will feature a free webcast with play-by-play commentary courtesy of JeffCast. Live statistics will also be available courtesy of the Amherst sports information department.

Game Preview: Amherst and Williams are two of only 14 undefeated teams remaining in Division III, but one of them will fall from that prestigious list on Saturday. The Ephs have won two straight in the rivalry and three of the past four, including a 72-69 non-conference result last year in Williamstown. In that game Amherst was 4-of-15 from the free throw line, but the Jeffs have combined to hit 42 of their 51 attempts from the line in the past two games (.824) and have been much sharper this season. No Division III team has been more consistent from the charity stripe than Williams, which is shooting 82.4 percent from the line through 13 games.

Amherst is 146-14 (.913) at home since Jan. 1, 2000, but Williams has won each of the past two meetings in LeFrak Gymnasium. The Ephs have been led by All-America guard James Wang ’12, who averages 18.5 points per game. They have won their past three without big man Troy Whittington ’11, whose 17.8 points, 10.1 rebounds and 2.4 blocks per game make him a dominant presence in the paint. Williams is averaging 86.1 points per contest while shooting 49.2 percent from the floor. In a recent win over Elms, nine players scored at least six points and no Eph had more than 13.

Amherst began the week leading Division III in scoring margin (+27.6), followed closely by Williams in second (+26.5). The Jeffs are also among the national leaders in rebounding margin (3rd, +11.4), field goal percentage (5th, 51.4) and scoring average (6th, 89.5). In the past five games three Lord Jeffs have averaged at least 14.0 points, with Willy Workman ’13 stepping up to average 14.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.6 assists while shooting 62 percent from the floor during that stretch. The Jeffs had a lot to be happy about after Wednesday’s 87-74 win over Wesleyan, as big men Jeff Holmes ’12 and Pete Kaasila ’13 combined for 26 points on 11-of-15 shooting, while Aaron Toomey ’14 scored 22 points and Workman added 20.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL – Saturday, Jan. 8 * 4 p.m. (LeFrak Gymnasium)
#4 Williams (12-0, 0-0 NESCAC) @ #1 Amherst (12-0, 0-0 NESCAC)

With both teams at 12-0, Saturday is arguably the most anticipated meeting in the rivalry's history.

Live Coverage: Saturday’s game will feature a free webcast with play-by-play commentary courtesy of JeffCast. Live statistics will also be available courtesy of the Amherst sports information department.

Game Preview: Saturday may feature the most anticipated meeting in the rivalry’s history. In addition to both teams being undefeated and ranked nationally in the top four, fans will be treated to a rematch of last year’s thrilling NCAA Tournament game that saw the Jeffs overcome a 15-point deficit in the second half en route to a 71-66 win. Sarah Leyman ’11 had 19 points and 11 rebounds for Amherst that day, a performance that, if duplicated, would make her the newest member of the 1,000-Point Club. After Saturday’s game, only one undefeated team will remain in the NESCAC.

Williams began the season ranked 14th in Division III but has gradually inched toward Amherst, which has held the top spot since day one. The Jeffs are unbeaten in their past 36 home games, but the Ephs are no strangers to stopping streaks. Most recently they handed previously-unbeaten Bridgewater State its first loss of the season, an 87-68 result that featured 18 points from Chessie Jackson ’11 and 17 from Taylor Shea ’11, as the two seniors combined to shoot 15-for-21. Both players are averaging 12.0 points per game on the season, with Shea also leading in rebounding (7.9). A victory for Williams would set a program record for most consecutive wins to start a season.

Amherst began the week leading Division III in scoring margin (+35.3) and is currently averaging 82.2 points per game while allowing only 46.8. Jaci Daigneault ’11—who is only 30 points shy of 1,000—has been leading the way at 13.3 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest, also leading the team in steals (29) and ranking second in blocks (10). Depth is once again the key for the Jeffs, who feature nine players averaging at least 6.2 points per game and do not have a single player averaging more than 20 minutes.

MEN’S SWIMMING AND DIVING – Saturday, Jan. 8 * 4 p.m. (Samuelson-Muir Pool)
#9 Amherst (4-0) @ #7 Williams (2-2)

The visiting team has won each of the past three dual meets in the Amherst-Williams rivalry.

Live Coverage: Williams College will provide a live webcast of Saturday’s meet for $15.  

Meet Preview: The visiting team has won each of the past three meetings in what has become an extremely competitive rivalry, including a 125-118 result that went the Ephs’ way last year in Amherst. The Lord Jeffs would get the last laugh by placing fifth at the NCAA Championships with their best finish in program history, while the Ephs finished ninth. Saturday will feature a pair of swimmers who were crowned national champions last year, as Amherst’s Alex Fraser ’11 won the 200- and 500-yard freestyle events and Ryan Lichtenfels ’12 was dominant in the 1,650-yard freestyle.

The Jeffs won 7 of 13 events in last year’s dual meet against Williams but could not hang on to their lead down the stretch. Lichtenfels won the 500- and 1,000-yard freestyle events en route to a NESCAC Performer of the Week honor, while Ben Wampler ’11 took the 50- and 100-yard freestyles for Williams. The Ephs took the top two scores on both boards last year, but things will be different this time around with three promising first-years diving for the Lord Jeffs. Notably, Colin White ’14 is a combined 8-0 in diving events this year and could play a major role in getting Amherst a win on Saturday.

Amherst will hope to repeat the success it saw against its archrival last year in the backstroke events. In the 200, Tim White ’12, Daniel Schwab ’13 and Reid Fitzgerald ’11 took the top three spots, with White also winning the 200-yard individual medley. Challenging Wampler in the sprint freestyles will be Sheng Hu ’13, while Fraser, Lichtenfels and White are among the Jeffs’ outstanding distance freestyle swimmers. Amherst beat Williams in both relays a year ago, including a 1-2 showing in the 400 medley. Rounding out the swimmers who earned a win against the Ephs last year is Ryan Colby ’11 (200 fly), while Mike O’Connor ’12 and Connor Beaulieu ’14 are among the team’s top performers in the breaststroke.