NESCAC Championship Previews

Contact: Ben Badua

No. 1 Amherst (15-0-0, 10-0-0 NESCAC) vs. No. 5 Wesleyan (9-5-1, 5-5-0 NESCAC)



ROAD TO THE SEMIFINAL: Just the fourth team in NESCAC history to finish the regular season undefeated, Amherst carried a program-record 14-game win streak into last Saturday’s quarterfinal matchup with Bowdoin. Despite near white-out conditions on snowy Hitchcock Field, the Lord Jeffs improved to 15-0-0 on the year, securing a thrilling 3-2 overtime win over the Polar Bears on junior Kathryn Nathan’s (Pembroke, Mass.) game winner at 91:25.

After a 3-4-0 start, Wesleyan posted a 6-1-0 mark down the stretch en route to the No. 5 seed in the NESCAC Championship. Knotted 1-1 with No. 4 Tufts after 110:00 minutes, the Cardinals advanced to their first-ever conference semifinal on penalty kicks (5-3).

Amherst upended Wesleyan 3-0 in a matchup on Hitchcock earlier this season. Nathan netted the game’s first goal at 15:52 before senior Jill Kochanek (Pittsburgh, Pa.) made it 2-0 with a marker at 23:25. Chloe McKenzie ’14 (Upper Marlboro, Md.) capped off the scoring with a tally in the 83rd minute.

POSTSEASON HISTORY: Saturday’s showdown marks the third meeting between the two squads in the NESCAC Championship. Second-seeded Amherst earned a hard-fought 1-0 decision over No. 7 Wesleyan in 2008 before again eliminating the Cardinals the following season by virtue of a 2-1 overtime win. With a victory over Wesleyan during the regular season, Amherst is now unbeaten in the past 19 meetings with its Little Three rival (18-0-1), improving to 29-6-1 in the all-time series.

BEHIND THE NUMBERS: Balanced on both sides of the pitch, the Jeffs enter Saturday's game with the NESCAC’s highest scoring offense (2.87) while having surrendered a league-low seven goals with nine shutouts. Sophomore Sarah Duffy (Fairfield, Conn.) and Nathan rank first (34) and fifth (24) in the conference in points, with the duo sharing the league lead in assists with eight. Senior goalkeeper Allie Horwitz (Woodbridge, Conn.) has anchored Amherst’s defensive efforts, ranking first in the NESCAC in goals-against average (0.47) and third in save percentage (0.883).

Junior Laura Kurash leads a Wesleyan attack that ranks fifth in the league in goals per game (1.60), posting the third most points (30) while sitting tied for second in goals (13). Sophomore forward Kerry Doyle has also stood out this season, currently sitting tied for second in assists (7) while ranking seventh in points (17).

No. 1 Amherst (12-1-2, 7-1-2 NESCAC) vs. No. 7 Middlebury (8-3-4, 3-3-4 NESCAC)



ROAD TO THE SEMIFINAL: Unbeaten at 11-0-2 entering their regular season finale with Connecticut College, the Jeffs suffered their first setback of the season with a 3-2 loss to the Camels. Despite finishing with an identical record as Wesleyan, Amherst earned the top seed in the conference tournament thanks to a better record against the league’s top four teams. With home field advantage, the Jeffs dispatched of No. 8 Colby 4-0 in last week’s quarterfinal round to keep their hopes for a second conference championship alive.

Opening the year with a 1-2-2 mark, Middlebury strung together a 6-1-2 stretch to close out the regular season, earning the championship’s No. 7 seed. Falling behind No. 2 Wesleyan 1-0 in their quarterfinal matchup last Saturday, the Panthers rallied for a 3-2 win to set up a showdown with the Jeffs.

POSTSEASON HISTORY: Amherst and Middlebury once again renew their rivalry with the teams having met in every NESCAC Championship dating back to 2005. Middlebury holds a 4-2 edge in the six postseason meetings, with the Jeffs taking the inaugural grudge match in 2005 (1-0) before capturing their first conference crown with a 2-0 victory over the Panthers in 2008. Middlebury, which lost to Amherst 3-0 earlier this season on Hitchcock Field, secured a 2-0 decision over the Jeffs in last season’s semifinal.

BEHIND THE NUMBERS: Amherst and Middlebury enter the semifinals ranked one-two in the NESCAC in scoring with 2.47 and 1.87 goals per game, respectively. Spencer Noon ’13 (Farmington, Conn.) headlines the Amherst offense with a league-high 11 goals, while Max Fikke ’14 (New York, N.Y.) ranks third in assists with five. Panther forward Martin Drolet ’12 leads Middlebury with 13 points on six goals and one assist, while Tyler Macnee ’12 has recorded five markers and three helpers on the season.

Looking to keep the opposing offenses at bay are senior goalkeepers Lennard Kovacs (Wolfersdorf, Germany) and Tim Cahill. Kovacs has enjoyed another stellar season in the Lord Jeff net, posting a 0.64 goals-against average and a 0.839 save percentage with six shutouts, upping his career total to 30. Cahill has also played well in the Middlebury goal, registering a 0.65 GAA and 0.773 save percentage with eight shutouts.

No. 2 Amherst (13-2, 8-2 NESCAC) vs. No. 3 Middlebury (13-2, 8-2 NESCAC)

Live Stats/Webcast * NESCAC PREVIEW


ROAD TO THE SEMIFINAL: Winning eight of its final nine games, Amherst posted a 12-2 regular season mark en route to the NESCAC Championship’s No. 2 seed. In search of their second consecutive semifinal appearance, the Jeffs downed Wesleyan 3-1 in last weekend’s quarterfinal on Gooding Field.

Starting the season off 2-2, Middlebury won its final 10 games to secure the tournament’s No. 3 seed. Wasting no time getting on the board with a goal in the 11th minute, the Panthers shut out No. 6 Williams 3-0 to advance to Saturday’s semifinal.

Earlier this season, Amherst notched just its third victory over Middlebury in the last decade, scoring a 3-1 decision over the Panthers on Gooding thanks to a pair of second-half goals from junior Katie McMahon (Denville, N.J.).

POSTSEASON HISTORY: Saturday’s matchup marks the fourth time the Jeffs and Panthers will meet in the NESCAC Championship. Squaring off in the 2000 quarterfinal, second-seeded Amherst knocked off No. 7 Middlebury 2-1. A year later, the Jeffs again eliminated the Panthers, this time with a 3-0 decision in the semifinals. In 2003 the teams again met in the semifinal round, as Middlebury returned the favor with a 3-0 margin of victory.

BEHIND THE NUMBERS: Middlebury features one of the nation’s top offenses, ranking third in the country in goals per game (4.53). Lauren Greer ’13 currently leads the nation in scoring with 5.07 points per game, tallying 30 goals and 16 assists thus far. Hannah Clarke ’12 has also proven to be a threat for the Panthers in 2011, collecting 25 points on 12 goals and an assist.

McMahon, who ranks second in the league in points (36) and goals (14), headlines an Amherst offense that averages 3.41 goals per contest while ranking fourth in the nation in penalty corners won (14.33). Krista Zsitvay ’14 (New Vernon, N.J.) sits fourth in both points (32) and goals (13), while Carly Dudzik ’12 (Darien, Conn.) is currently tied for fifth in assists with eight.

Looking to keep the Panther attack in check is a solid Amherst defense that allowed the second fewest goals in the NESCAC (12) and tied for the most shutouts with six. Anchoring the Jeff defense is standout first-year goalkeeper Rachel Tannenbaum (Berwyn, Pa.), who leads the nation in save percentage 0.901 while ranking sixth in goals-against average (0.72).

No. 4 Trinity (18-8, 6-4 NESCAC) vs. No. 5 Amherst (20-6, 6-4 NESCAC)



REGULAR SEASON WRAP-UP: Amherst won its last three matches, finishing the regular season with a 20-6 mark and a 6-4 league ledger en route to the championship’s No. 5 seed. Also playing well down the stretch, Trinity won four of its last five en route to the No. 4 seed - its highest finish since 2005.

Earlier this season, Trinity upended Amherst 3-0 during a NESCAC Quad hosted by Wesleyan. Hannah Brickley ’14 and Danielle Isaman ’13 led the Bantams with 17 and 14 kills, respectively, while Jennifer Low ’12 had 31 assists. Amherst’s KC Kanoff ’12 (Pacific Palisades, Calif.) and Mary Reiser ’12 (New York, N.Y.) combined for 13 kills, while Callie Neilson ’13 (Escondido, Calif.) had 23 assists.

POSTSEASON HISTORY: This marks the third meeting between the two squads in the NESCAC Championship, with Amherst winning the prior two matchups in 2000 (3-1) and 2006 (3-0). Including regular season play, the Lord Jeffs are 6-1 over their last seven matches against Trinity, while having gone 21-2 against the Bantans since 2000.

BEHIND THE NUMBERS: Trinity enters Friday night’s showdown as the league leader in opponent hitting percentage (0.093), digs (19.88) and kills per set (12.58) while also ranking third in service aces (2.14). Brickley and Isaman currently sit second (4.22) and third (3.61) in the NESCAC in kills per set, while Low ranks third in assists (9.54). Sarah Blagden ’12 is second in the league in digs with 5.80 per frame.

Leading the Amherst offense for much of the season have been Cristy Meier ’12 (San Anselmo, Calif.) and Lauren Antion ’15 (Los Angeles, Calif.). Antion, the ECAC's reigning Player of the Week, currently ranks sixth in the conference in hitting percentage (.286). Meier sits eighth in kills per set (3.04), while Neilson ranks fifth in assists (9.36). Kristin Keeno ’13 (Honolulu, Hawaii) has anchored Amherst’s defensive efforts with a league-high 6.33 digs per frame.