Same Old Story, Different Year for Amherst's Winter Teams

Amherst’s winter teams have produced a national team champion in three of the past four years, with several student-athletes also taking home individual NCAA titles along the way. This March could feature much of the same for the Lord Jeffs, who are cruising along and nationally ranked in several sports. Here is a quick rundown of Amherst’s winter teams in case you missed out on the first semester, as well as some meaningful events to watch out for in 2011.

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Amherst’s basketball, hockey, squash, and swimming & diving teams are a combined 39-5-2 (.870) heading into the New Year, marking the highest winning percentage in the NESCAC among those eight sports. This is a slight drop-off from the past two winters that took Amherst to new heights, but the Jeffs are still on pace for a monumental year. Notably, Amherst is ranked nationally in women’s basketball (No. 1, D3hoops) and men’s basketball (No. 17), women’s ice hockey (No. 6, USCHO), women’s squash (No. 14, CSA) and men’s squash (No. 19), women’s swimming & diving (No. 5, CSCAA) and men’s swimming & diving (No. 9). Competition will resume on Tuesday, Dec. 28, when the women’s basketball team opens the Classic in Las Vegas, with the winter season hitting full stride on Jan. 7-8 when Amherst and Williams clash in basketball, swimming and hockey.  
Men's Basketball
Since opening the season with a 90-89 overtime win against Maine-Farmington, each of the Amherst men’s basketball team’s past eight wins has come by at least 14 points. With incredible depth and an explosive offense, the Jeffs have hit 100 points on three occasions to rank sixth in Division III in scoring offense (90.6 ppg). They have used home court advantage to jump out to a 9-0 record as one of only three unbeaten teams in the NESCAC, as they are 145-14 (.912) in LeFrak Gymnasium since Jan. 1, 2000. Amherst is the conference’s only team with five players averaging at least 10.0 points per game, but Taylor Barrise ’12 has stolen the show. In his past four games Barrise is averaging 20 points and shooting 62 percent from beyond the arc (23-for-37), notably knocking down seven three-pointers against Elms and Babson. Game to Watch: With Amherst leading Division III in scoring margin (+27.9) and Williams ranking second (+26.6), the Jan. 8 showdown in LeFrak between the Jeffs and second-ranked Ephs has the ingredients for an instant classic. (Photo by Alec Jacobson '12)
Women's Basketball
Returning every player from last year’s Final Four squad, it should come as no surprise that the women’s basketball team is ranked No. 1 in Division III with an 11-0 record. The Jeffs have won each game by double digits and lead the country in scoring margin (+36.8), notably earning five victories of at least 40 points and two of at least 50. Like the men’s team, Amherst has taken advantage of a home-heavy schedule by increasing its winning streak in LeFrak to 35 games. The Class of 2011 is 41-0 in November and December thanks in part to co-captains Sarah Leyman ’11 and Jaci Daigneault ’11, who are each inching toward 1,000 career points. The reigning NESCAC Co-Player of the Week, Daigneault is averaging 13.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game while hanging with the national leaders in field goal percentage (.602). Game to Watch: Fans will be treated to a rematch of last year’s NCAA Round of 16 thriller when the Jeffs host the sixth-ranked Ephs on Jan. 8. (Photo by Kathy Nolan '10)
Men's Hockey
The Lord Jeffs (4-2-1) hit a brief skid when they lost to No. 10 Manhattanville and No. 12 Utica by a combined 8-1, but they rebounded nicely by tying No. 4 Norwich and picking up dominant wins over Saint Michael’s and Salve Regina. Amherst is still in the NESCAC hunt with a 3-0-1 conference record, but competition is tough this year with No. 3 Williams and No. 5 Bowdoin cruising along at a combined 13-1-1 while leading Division III in several statistical categories. Fifteen players have scored for the Jeffs, who are averaging 3.57 goals per game. Defense and discipline have been the keys to success, as Amherst ranks second in the nation in penalty kill percentage (93.5), seventh in scoring defense (1.86 gpg) and seventh in fewest penalty minutes served per game (11.0). Games to Watch: Amherst will welcome the NESCAC’s heavy hitters to Orr Rink in 2011, with Williams and Middlebury coming to town on Jan. 7 and Jan. 8, while Bowdoin and Colby will present a challenging stretch on Feb. 4 and Feb. 5. (Photo by Alec Jacobson '12)
Women's Hockey
The Amherst women’s hockey team is off to a 3-3-1 start after having lost only two games all of last year, but the Jeffs knew their road to a three-peat wouldn’t be a walk in the park. In addition to having a target on its back as the two-time defending national champion, Amherst is in the midst of a nine-game road trip that includes seven consecutive meetings with nationally ranked teams. Two of the Jeffs’ losses came at the hands of top-ranked RIT (13-0), but they looked particularly impressive during a 6-2 win over No. 7 Trinity. Lineup changes in the second semester will hopefully get the team’s defense on the right track, while Courtney Hanlon ’11 is once again leading the offense as a recent addition to the 100-Point Club. Games to Watch: The road doesn’t get any easier, but the Jan. 14-15 home series with No. 4 Middlebury will be particularly significant as the teams battle for NESCAC supremacy. Nine of the Jeffs’ final 13 games will be played in Orr Rink, where they went 11-0-3 last year. (Photo by Kathy Nolan '10)
Men's Track
It’s hard to evaluate the men’s indoor track and field season after only one meet, but the Lord Jeffs put in their usual strong performances at the Smith Winter Classic at the beginning of the month. Tommy Moore ’11 kicked off his senior season by leading Amherst to a 4-5-6 finish in the 600-meter run and also helped the team win the 4x400 relay by more than six seconds. Chris Eaton ’11 set a personal record in the 35-pound weight throw (15.39m) to fall less than a half meter shy of the school record. Thomas Matthew ’13 and Javier Paulino ’14 led the sprinters, with Matthew placing second in the 55-meter dash (6.79s). Top performers also included Taylor Perkins ’11, who finished third in the 400-meter dash with a time of 54.24 seconds. Events to Watch: The Jeffs will deal with their usual schedule this winter, competing at the likes of Brandeis, Wesleyan and Boston University before kicking off championship season in mid-February. The national championships are set for Mar. 11-12 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Taylor Perkins '11)
Women's Track
Like the men’s team, the Amherst women opened the indoor season with several strong performances at the Smith Winter Classic. Naomi Bates ’14 did a little bit of everything for the Jeffs, placing second in the triple jump, fourth in the long jump and second in the 200-meter dash, also helping the team grab second place in the 4x400 relay. Jordan Roehl ’12 and Chibuzo Uwakaneme ’11 led the throwers, with Roehl earning a pair of top-four results and Uwakaneme setting a personal best in the shot put (9.75m). Seniors Susan Wasserman and Zoe Pagonis led Amherst to a 3-4-5 showing in the 1,000-meter run, while Jade McKnight ’13 earned the team’s lone win by putting in a time of 1:05.04 in the 400-meter dash. McKnight, Wasserman and newcomer Jaya Tripathi ’14 joined Bates in the 4x400 relay team that was barely edged by Smith. Events to Watch: As is the case with the men’s team, the Jeffs will compete in their usual meets with hopes of sending a good group to the national championships in Columbus. (Photo by Jon Moulton)
Men's Squash
The Amherst men’s squash team carries a 3-0 record into the New Year thanks to convincing wins over No. 43 Vassar (9-0), No. 31 Northeastern (9-0) and No. 32 MIT (8-1). The talented senior trio of Kevin Cecala ’11, Brian Warner ’11 and Tom Rapisarda ’11 gives Amherst a significant amount of experience at the top of the ladder, while a promising group of younger players includes Charles Loesch-Quintin ’13 and newcomer David Kerr ’14, each of whom has played in the top five thus far. Loesch-Quintin earned a tough win against Vassar in the top spot (11-8, 11-7, 11-9), while Cecala competed in the No. 1 match against Northeastern and MIT. Each of Cecala’s past two matches was a marathon, including an impressive showing against the Engineers that nearly saw him overcome a 2-0 deficit. Matches to Watch: After opening the New Year against No. 2 Yale and No. 7 Dartmouth, the Jeffs will get a chance to upset some NESCAC teams when they host six matches in three days (Jan. 14-16) as part of the Pioneer Valley Invitational. (Photo by Erik Andrews '09)
Women's Squash
The Amherst women’s squash team opened its schedule with three wins against top-30 programs to wrap up the first semester with a 3-0 record. With wins over No. 22 Vassar (9-0), No. 28 Smith (8-1) and No. 29 Northeastern (9-0), the Lord Jeffs are 13-3 in their past 16 matches dating back to last year. Hayley Milbourn ’11 and Allie Dalglish ’11 are off to strong starts and are once again expected to lead the team, with newcomer Evelyn Kramer ’14 fitting in nicely near the top of the ladder. Mimi Bell ’11 and Caitlin Demkin ’11 have also played in the top half of the lineup to help provide strong senior leadership, while Kate Savage ’12 and Anna Scheidt ’12—each of whom played in the top five last year—should make the Jeffs even stronger when they return from studying abroad. Matches to Watch: The Jeffs will be tested when they host the likes of No. 11 Middlebury and No. 12 Bates during the Pioneer Valley Invitational (Jan. 14-16), but they have the talent and depth to pull off an upset or two. (Photo by Erik Andrews '09)
Men's Swimming
The 2010-11 season couldn’t be going much better for the men’s swimming and diving team, as the Lord Jeffs swept all 16 events against Colby and all 13 against Wesleyan before winning 14 of 16 at Middlebury. Amherst opened the season by breaking a Pratt Pool record in the 200-yard medley relay, an event that saw newcomer Tyler Bulakul ’14 join usual suspects Reid Fitzgerald ’11, Ben McBratney ’12 and Alex Fraser ’11. Bulakul (butterfly) is one of several first-years to show promise, with Connor Beaulieu ’14 (breaststroke, IM) winning three individual events at Middlebury and two against Wesleyan. Colin White ’14 has led a group of three new divers by posting a 6-0 record through his first three collegiate meets. Meet to Watch: The showdown with Williams is the highlight of every dual meet season, and 2011 will be no different. The visiting team has won each of the past three meetings (including a 125-118 thriller that went the Ephs’ way last year), so look for Amherst to continue that pattern when the Jeffs head to Williamstown on Jan. 8. (Photo by Justin Long)
Women's Swimming
The makeup of the women’s swimming and diving team is similar to that of the men’s, as a group of proven veterans has been joined by an exceptional first-year class. It should have come as no surprise when Kendra Stern ’11 swam a pair of NCAA automatic qualifying times against Wesleyan, winning the 200-yard freestyle in 1:48.72 (Pratt Pool record) before finishing the 500 in 4:55.07. Fellow senior Meggie Meisinger is once again looking strong on the boards and could very well join Stern at nationals, while Lizzy Linsmayer ’14 has been a nice addition to the divers and could be in for a standout first season. Abby Hahn ’14 and Allison Merz ’14 have been dominant in the breaststroke and butterfly races, respectively, with Merz hitting a “B” cut in the 100 fly against Wesleyan. Meet to Watch: Fans will have three more chances to watch Amherst in Pratt Pool this winter, but the Jan. 8 meet at Williams highlights the dual meet season as the Jeffs attempt to regain momentum in the rivalry. (Photo by Justin Long)