Jeffs Ready for Big Playoff Weekend
Contact: Matthew Hart
It's another big conference weekend for Amherst's fall teams as field hockey and both soccer squads hit the road for NESCAC semifinal matchups Saturday and potential championship games Sunday, while volleyball competes in the conference playoff tournament, beginning Friday. Here's an inside look at all of the upcoming postseason action:
FIELD HOCKEY - NESCAC Semifinals
No. 5 Amherst (11-4, 6-4 NESCAC) at No. 1 Middlebury (15-0, 10-0 NESCAC), Sat., 11 a.m.
In a rematch of last year’s NESCAC semifinal, Amherst will look to put the past behind it Saturday, as Middlebury has won six of the teams’ previous eight meetings, dating back to 2007. Last year’s wounds are still fresh for many of the current Jeffs, as the Panthers defeated Amherst twice in the 2011 postseason after the Jeffs won the regular season matchup in September. Middlebury notched a 2-1 overtime win in the conference semis on Nov. 5 before ending the Jeffs’ season with a 1-0 triumph in the NCAA Second Round just over a week later on Nov. 13.
The Jeffs couldn’t solve the Panthers in the teams’ regular season matchup, with Middlebury notching a 3-1 win at home on Sep. 23. Katie McMahon ’13 scored the lone Amherst goal, evening the score at 1-1 after Lauren Greer ’13 put the hosts ahead early. Completing the hat trick, Greer struck twice more sandwiching halftime to give Middlebury all the cushion it needed. The Panthers finished with a 17-13 shot advantage, with Amherst holding an 8-5 edge in penalty corners.
Amherst carries one of the league’s most potent offenses into Saturday’s semifinal, ranking third in the NESCAC in goals per game (3.5) during the regular season. The program’s all-time leader in career points, goals, and assists, McMahon heads the attack, tying for the team lead in goals (11) while leading the squad with eight assists. Krista Zsitvay ’14 (pictured) has also netted 11 tallies after scoring twice in the Jeffs’ 3-2 quarterfinal win at Trinity last Saturday, her second strike the game-winner in the second overtime. Scoring in five of the last seven contests, Madeline Tank ’15 has equaled McMahon and Zsitvay with 11 markers on the year. Goalkeeper Rachel Tannenbaum ’15 anchors the Amherst defense, ranking second in the conference and seventh nationally in save percentage (.841), while standing amongst the league leaders in goals against (17) and GAA (1.13).
The nation’s top-ranked team, Middlebury has raced to a 15-0 record on the year, including a 7-0 romp over eighth-seeded Connecticut College in last weekend’s quarterfinal. The Panthers were flat-out relentless in October, outscoring opponents 59-0 during an eight-match shutout streak that lasted the duration of the month. The 2011 NESCAC Player of the Year and the current national scoring leader, Greer heads the vaunted Middlebury attack with 75 points on the year (31 goals, 13 assists). Catherine Fowler ’15 leads the Panthers with 15 assists to go with 11 goals, while Katherine Theiss ’14 has tallied 16 scores. Helped by a stout defense, Madeline Brooks ’13 has stifled opponents in goal, permitting just six tallies en route to a nation-leading 0.46 GAA, while ranking second nationally in save percentage (.867).
WOMEN’S SOCCER – NESCAC Semifinals (at Williams)
No. 3 Amherst (13-1-1, 8-1-1 NESCAC) vs. No. 4 Bowdoin (11-3-1, 6-3-1 NESCAC), Sat., 1:30 p.m.
Amherst has won its last six matches with Bowdoin, dating back to 2009. The Jeffs will seek to end the Polar Bears’ season for a third consecutive year, having eliminated their northern rivals in the quarterfinal round of the 2010 and 2011 NESCAC Championships. Last year’s playoff matchup was particularly memorable, as the Jeffs prevailed, 3-2, on a snow-covered Hitchcock Field thanks to a Kathryn Nathan ’13 (pictured) overtime strike.
Wet conditions and a shoeless co-captain could not hold back Amherst in the squads’ 2012 regular season matchup, as the Lord Jeffs pulled away for a 4-1 Senior Day victory on Oct. 14 at Hitchcock Field. Kate Sisk ’14 and Meghan Kim ’16 led the way for Amherst, each tallying a goal and an assist, Sisk’s second-half helper coming after losing her right cleat moments earlier. Juniors Amanda Brisco and Sarah Duffy also scored for the Jeffs, while Nathan notched her league-leading eighth assist. Audrey Phillips ’16 sent in the lone Bowdoin goal on a helper from Alexa Yurick ’15 midway through the second half.
The NESCAC’s highest scoring offense (2.9 gpg), Amherst’s balanced attack features six players with at least 10 points and a quartet with six goals each. Nathan has handed out a conference-best 10 assists while scoring five times, ranking second in the league in points (20). Brisco, Kim, Duffy, and Chloe McKenzie ’15 have been her most frequent beneficiaries, with each tallying six goals on the year. Brisco, who has also recorded six assists, sent home the winner in Amherst’s 1-0 quarterfinal win over Colby last Saturday. The Jeff defense, meanwhile, has posted 10 shutouts, giving up the second-fewest goals in the NESCAC (8). Keeper Holly Burwick ’16 anchors the team’s efforts in the back, ranking second in the conference in save percentage (0.875) and goals-against average (0.56).
The Polar Bear offense trails only Amherst, averaging 1.9 goals per contest. Molly Popolizio ’14 generals the attack, ranking second behind Nathan with seven assists. Kiersten Turner ’16 leads the team with six goals, while Popolizio and Jamie Hofstetter ’16 have each struck five times on the year, three of Hofstetter’s coming in last Saturday’s quarterfinal when the rookie netted a hat trick to lead Bowdoin past Hamilton, 3-2. Defensively, Bowdoin is backed by keeper Bridget McCarthy ’16, who ranks third in the NESCAC with a 0.92 GAA while posting a 0.829 save percentage.
MEN’S SOCCER – NESCAC Semifinals (at Williams)
No. 2 Amherst (13-0-2, 8-0-2 NESCAC) vs. No. 3 Wesleyan (9-3-3, 6-2-2 NESCAC), Sat., 1:30 p.m.
While Amherst hasn’t lost to Wesleyan since 2007, it’s hard to say the Jeffs hold a clear upper hand in the Little Three Rivalry, as three of the last four and seven of the teams’ last 13 matches have ended in draws, dating back to 2003. The teams have held identical 3-3-7 head-to-head records over that span, including a 1-1-1 split in postseason contests (Wesleyan advanced on penalty picks when the squads tied in the first round of the 2003 NESCAC Championship). The Jeffs and Cardinals’ last playoff clash came in 2008, with Amherst securing a 2-0 quarterfinal victory thanks in part to an early goal from Jae Heo ’14, then a first-year before taking two seasons off for mandatory military service in his native South Korea.
Spencer Noon ’13 (pictured) scored just before halftime but Wesleyan found the equalizer and held on, as the Lord Jeffs and Cardinals played to a 1-1 double-overtime draw in Middletown on Oct. 20. The result left the Little Three title in possession of all three combatants as all games between Amherst, Wesleyan, and Williams ended in a tie for just the second time in history (the first coming in 1932). Noon banged home his ninth goal of the season when a Ben Norton ’14 cross set up his header just 22 seconds before intermission, but Rory O'Neill ’13 evened it in the 66th, blasting a 20-yarder into the right corner of the net past keeper Thomas Bull ’16. Amherst outshot its host by a wide 29-12 margin, giving rise to a career-best 10-save game from Wesleyan keeper Adam Purdy ’13. Bull made five saves for the Jeffs as the Amherst defense surrendered just its second goal of the season.
It has all started with defense for the second-ranked Lord Jeffs. Headed by co-captain Chris Lerner ’13, Amherst’s top-ranked backline leads the nation in goals-against average (0.13) and shutouts (13), having allowed just two goals in 2012 and holding opponents without a shot on net in five matches. When the ball does reach him, rookie standout Bull ranks second nationally in save percentage (.922) and first in GAA (0.14). Meanwhile, the NESCAC’s highest scoring offense (3.1 gpg) features a lineup that boasts five players with at least 10 points. Noon leads the attack with a conference-best 11 goals and 26 total points, while Heo’s six strikes and conference-best eight assists place him third with 20 points. Mikey Hoeksema ’15 has been a difference-maker off the bench, tying Heo with eight helpers on the year.
Defense has also been a strength for the Cardinals, as Wesleyan ranks third in the conference with just eight goals permitted on the season. Co-captain Cabell Maddux ’13 has been an anchor on the backline while also tallying two goals and an assist on the campaign, while Purdy ranks second in the NESCAC with 51 saves. A 2009 NSCAA All-American, the Cardinal keeper has often been the difference, as Wesleyan’s offense ranks seventh in the league, averaging just 1.3 goals per contest. O’Neill, an All-America pick last season, leads the unit with 11 points (five goals, one assist), while Daniel Issroff ’15 posts a squad-best four helpers to go with two strikes and Chris Kafina ’16 has netted three markers on the year.
VOLLEYBALL – NESCAC Championship (at Connecticut College)
Quarterfinal: No. 4 Amherst (14-8, 7-3 NESCAC) vs. No. 5 Williams (14-11, 7-3 NESCAC), Fri., 8 p.m.
With 3-0 wins over Colby and Bates last weekend, the Amherst volleyball team wrapped up the fourth seed for the upcoming NESCAC Championship tournament, to be held Friday-Sunday at top-seeded Connecticut College. The Lord Jeffs face fifth-seeded archrival Williams in Friday’s quarterfinal match at 8 p.m. A win would advance Amherst to a 1 p.m. Saturday semifinal against the winner of No. 8 Colby and the host Camels, where the Jeffs would play for a spot in Sunday’s 12 p.m. championship. On Friday night, the Jeffs will look to make it four in a row against the Ephs as Amherst notched a 3-1 regular season win on Oct. 13 and tallied 3-2 triumphs in both 2011 and 2010.
Sammy Newby ’16 ripped a career-high 13 kills as Amherst rallied after dropping the first set to defeat Williams, 3-1, at LeFrak Gym. Tied for first in the conference heading into the contest, the Ephs took the opener, 25-21, but the Lord Jeffs roared to life and took the match with wins of 25-17, 25-23, and 25-18. Newby hit .406 en route to the biggest performance of her rookie season, including five big kills in the tight third set and the winning shot in the fourth. Lizzie Ahern ’16 matched her classmate with 13 kills, while Emily Waterhouse ’13 (pictured) turned in a brilliant all-around effort with 12 kills, four aces, 14 digs, and a pair of blocks.
The Jeffs have gotten hot at the right time, winning their last four conference matches of the regular season to grab the fourth seed thanks to their head-to-head tiebreaker over Williams. Ahern leads the Amherst attack and ranks fourth in the NESCAC at 3.19 kills per game while also boasting the league’s fifth-best hitting percentage (.280). Waterhouse has been a versatile star, ranking third on the squad in both kills (178) and digs (193) while also recording 25 service aces. Nicole Carter ’16 has flourished at setter in her rookie campaign, ranking fifth in the NESCAC with 8.43 assists per game while leading the squad with 27 aces. On the defensive side, liberos Kristin Keeno ’13 and Katie Warshaw ’16 have starred with 251 and 227 digs, respectively.
After a strong start, the Ephs have slowed down the stretch, dropping two of their last three conference matches and five of seven overall beginning with the setback at Amherst. Claire Miller ’15 (2.45), Emily Doll ’14 (2.36), and Raea Rasmussen ’15 (2.16) lead the balanced Williams offense, each averaging over two kills per game, while Catherine Egan ’16 (1.67) ranks fourth in the conference with a .293 hitting percentage. First-year setter Ryan Farley’s 8.47 assists per game ranks fourth, while Emily O’Day ’15 is among the conference’s top defenders with 341 digs on the year.