Athletics

Breaking Down Amherst's Playoff Scenarios

Contact: Justin Long

AMHERST, Mass. – Playoff scenarios can be messy. Thankfully, Amherst’s basketball and hockey teams were nice enough to simplify things by locking up home quarterfinal games in the upcoming NESCAC Championships last week. But how much hosting is in store for the Lord Jeffs this postseason? Here’s a quick look at how things could pan out for Amherst this weekend.

Women’s Basketball (22-0, 8-0 NESCAC)
Can finish as high as: #1
…and as low as: #1

Weekend Opponents: Williams (18-4, 5-3 NESCAC) and Middlebury (6-15, 0-8 NESCAC)

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The Rundown: The Lord Jeffs decided to forego the dramatics and lock up the conference’s top seed with a 48-31 win at Tufts last Saturday. Still, Amherst will have plenty on the line this weekend, including a 41-game win streak, an undefeated regular season and a Little Three title. (Not to mention bragging rights against the Ephs, who the Jeffs have defeated in nine straight meetings.) Amherst will also be glad to play in front of its home crowd for the first time since Jan. 17, as the Jeffs are riding a 58-game win streak in LeFrak Gymnasium. Equally impressive is Amherst’s 31-game unbeaten streak in conference play, which is tied for the longest in NESCAC history. Bowdoin won 31 straight in league play during its powerhouse days, thanks to three consecutive seasons of being 9-0 in conference games.

Senior Spotlight: Prior to Saturday’s game against Middlebury, Amherst will honor seniors Lem Atanga McCormick, Shannon Finucane, Kim Fiorentino, Jackie Renner, Livia Rizzo and Caroline Stedman. The Class of 2012 is 115-6 as a group with two NESCAC titles and the program’s first NCAA championship to its credit. With 977 career points, Finucane will be looking to join Stedman and Atanga McCormick in the 1,000-point club.
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Men’s Basketball (20-2, 8-0 NESCAC)
Can finish as high as: #1
…and as low as: #2

Weekend Opponents: Williams (16-6, 4-4 NESCAC) and Middlebury (20-1, 8-0 NESCAC)

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The Rundown: The interesting thing about this weekend is that Friday’s game against Williams isn’t as important as Saturday’s against Middlebury when it comes to the NESCAC standings. Regardless of what happens to the Jeffs and Panthers on Friday, the winner of Saturday’s game will earn the conference’s top seed, with the loser getting the second seed. Still, there’s nothing quite like the Amherst-Williams rivalry, and calling one of their meetings “unimportant” just wouldn’t be right. Plus, the Ephs will be looking for payback after they lost on their home court to the Jeffs last month, 67-65. Saturday’s game, meanwhile, will pit Amherst against second-ranked Middlebury, which won its first 20 games of the season and features one of the best players in Division III. (More on Saturday’s game here.)

Senior Spotlight: Prior to Saturday’s game against Middlebury, Amherst will honor seniors Taylor Barrise, Connor Johnson, Jeff Holmes, Tim Prowitt and David Waller. The Class of 2012 has made two NCAA Tournament appearances and is 80-24 as a group, including 40-4 in LeFrak Gymnasium. Barrise, Holmes and Waller each rank among the program’s top 50 in scoring, with Barrise entering the weekend at 901 career points.
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Women’s Hockey (17-3-0, 11-1-0 NESCAC)
Can finish as high as: #1
…and as low as: #3

Weekend Opponent: Trinity (11-9-0, 6-6-0 NESCAC)

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The Rundown: Amherst is arguably the hottest Division III team at the moment, having begun a seven-game win streak with two victories against nationally-ranked teams (as well as one against Saint Thomas, which is the first team outside of the Top 10). The Jeffs have a one-game lead over Middlebury in the standings and will secure the top seed by going 4-0 (or 3-0-1) down the stretch, or by catching a break with another Panther setback. A loss still keeps Amherst in the hunt for the number-one seed, but the ensuing tie-breaking scenarios would make this weekend’s series against Trinity much more significant. The surging Bantams won eight in a row before getting swept by Bowdoin last weekend, and Trinity has battled Amherst in some classic games these past few years.

Senior Spotlight: Prior to Saturday’s game against Trinity, Amherst will honor seniors Erin Babineau, Stephanie Clegg, Josie Fisher, Sinead Murphy, Ellen Swiontkowski and Emily Vitale. This senior class is among the most successful in any sport in school history, thanks to two NCAA titles, a NESCAC championship and a 52-4-4 record in conference play (83-16-6 overall). The Class of 2012 is also in line for a third 20-win season after winning “only” 19 games a year ago.
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Men’s Hockey (16-3-1, 13-1-0 NESCAC)
Can finish as high as: #1
…and as low as: #2

Weekend Opponents: Tufts (11-7-2, 8-5-1 NESCAC) and Conn. College (5-12-3, 3-9-2 NESCAC)

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The Rundown: The only team that can steal the conference’s top seed from Amherst’s grasp is Bowdoin, which will need quite a bit of help these next two weeks in order to finish the regular season atop the standings. Things are much simpler for the Jeffs, who need only one more win or one Bowdoin loss to clinch the top spot. Although the odds are heavily in Amherst’s favor, this is by no means an easy final stretch for the Jeffs. Tufts is 5-0-1 in its past six games, Amherst has tied Connecticut College in each of the past two meetings, and Middlebury and Williams are very talented teams seeking revenge. In short, it’s definitely too early to celebrate. On the other hand, the Jeffs could have the number-one seed wrapped up before their next game on Saturday, as Bowdoin is scheduled to play Friday night.

Senior Spotlight: Prior to Sunday’s game against the Camels, Amherst will honor seniors Mike Baran, Mark Colp, Jeremy Deutsch, Eddie Effinger, Kevin English and Jonathan La Rose. The Class of 2012 has posted a 66-22-10 overall record and a 50-13-8 mark in conference play, making it arguably the most successful group in program history. This year’s seniors need only one more victory to become the team’s winningest class of all time, as the Class of 2010 finished with a 66-28-9 record.

WEEKEND SCHEDULE

Friday, Feb. 10
6 p.m. --- Women's Basketball vs. Williams --- Webcast/Live Stats
7 p.m. --- Women's Hockey vs. Trinity --- Webcast
8 p.m. --- Men's Basketball vs. Williams --- Webcast/Live Stats

Saturday, Feb. 11
2 p.m. --- Women's Basketball vs. Middlebury --- Webcast/Live Stats
3 p.m. --- Women's Hockey vs. Trinity --- Webcast
4 p.m. --- Men's Basketball vs. Middlebury --- Webcast/Live Stats
7:30 p.m. --- Men's Hockey vs. Tufts --- Webcast

Sunday, Feb. 12
3 p.m. --- Men's Hockey vs. Conn. College --- Webcast