Jeffs Top Wellesley 3-1 in Hall of Fame Opener for 16th Straight

Amherst celebrated its 16th straight win this
evening to tie a program record for best
start to a season (19-1).

NORTHAMPTON, MA – The Amherst College volleyball team won its 16th consecutive match this evening with a 3-1 victory over Wellesley College to open the 2010 Hall of Fame Tournament. The Lord Jeffs dropped the first set 27-25, before rolling off three straight wins 25-15, 25-15, and 25-16 in convincing fashion.

With today’s result, Amherst improves to 19-1 on the year, matching a program record for the best start to the season (2006). The Jeffs and Blue Pride also met in the 2010 season opener, with Amherst pulling out a 3-0 road win.

In the opening set, Wellesley rallied after a late timeout to close the gap to 22-21, forcing Amherst head coach Sue Everden to call a timeout of her own. Wellesley won three of the next four points to take a 24-23 lead, but Amherst responded to force extra points in the opening frame.  Amherst could not escape dropping the first frame 27-25, losing just its 10th set of the entire season.

The Jeffs bounced back early in the second stanza, running out to a 10-3 lead. After splitting the next six points, Amherst was able to add to its lead, stretching the margin to 18-7. With Victoria Peng serving, Wellesley was able to cut into the deficit a bit. The Amherst lead shrank as low as six points at 21-15, forcing Amherst into a timeout. The stoppage paid dividends, as the Jeffs won the next four points to take the second set 25-15, winning the set on an emphatic Cristy Meier kill (San Anselmo, CA).

After starting the third set with a pair of Callie Neilson (Escondido, CA) aces and a kill from Laura Hyman (Glencoe, IL), Wellesley was whistled for a blocking error to give the Jeffs a 4-0 lead. The Blue finally called a timeout as Amherst’s lead hit 6-0. With Neilson still serving, Rachel Yorke (Los Angeles, CA) kept a ball alive at least 20 feet beyond the court, leading to another score as Amherst’s advantage swelled to 8-0.

Amherst’s offense cooled slightly, allowing Wellesley to close the margin to 15-9.  Jackie Berkley (Fullerton, CA) and first-year Claire Hoffman (Spokane, WA) combined for a huge block on the right side a few points later, as Amherst’s lead stayed strong at 18-11. Amherst never looked back, closing out the third set 25-15 to take a 2-1 lead.

In the fourth set, a controversial call was reversed in Wellesley’s favor to leave Amherst up just 13-12. After a Hoffman kill and a block by Berkley, Amherst’s was back off and running. A hitting error by Wellesley’s Taylor King stretched the lead back to 16-12. After two hitting errors and a ball-handling error went against the Blue, Amherst was up 20-13. Amherst closed out the fourth and final set without incident, winning 25-16 to seal the match.

Meier led the Lord Jeff attack once again with 13 kills, eight digs and three blocks. Kanoff rang in with 10 kills and five digs as well. Hyman and Berkley were superb at middle hitter, combining for 20 kills and 8 blocks. Yorke paced the defense with 29 digs, while Kristin Keeno (Honolulu, HI) returned from injury with three digs in her first limited action in weeks. Neilson had another solid night with 44 assists.

The Lord Jeffs will face the winner of this evening’s match between Springfield and Bowdoin tomorrow at noon for a shot in the 2010 Hall of Fame Championship Match at 4 p.m. tomorrow.