Athletics

Jeffs Outlast Middlebury, Notch Big Senior Night Win

Contact: Matthew Hart

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AMHERST, Mass. – Lizzie Ahern ’16 posted a match-high 19 kills and Lauren Antion ’15 added 17 of her own as a pair of underclassmen led the way on Senior Night, lifting the Amherst College volleyball team past a spirited Middlebury College comeback en route to a dramatic 3-2 win at LeFrak Gym.
 
After racing to a 2-0 lead with victories of 25-21 and 25-19, the Lord Jeffs fell victim to a fierce Panther rally, as the visitors took the next two sets, 25-13 and 25-22. Amherst would not be denied in the final period, however, jumping out to a big lead then withstanding another Middlebury comeback to win, 15-12, and earn the thrilling match victory.

Amherst improved to 8-6 (4-3 NESCAC) with the triumph, while the Panthers missed a chance to tie Bowdoin and Williams atop the conference, falling to 13-5 (5-2 NESCAC).

Megan Jarchow’s 17 kills led a balanced Middlebury attack, while Amy Hart added 14 kills and 20 digs and Julia Gibbs filled the stat sheet with 11 kills, 21 assists and 15 digs.

Prior to their penultimate home contest, the Jeffs honored seniors Abigail Hunter, Kristin Keeno, Callie Neilson and Emily Waterhouse. A large contingent of Amherst fans turned out to thank the quartet for four stellar years which has seen the program post a 74-24 record, three trips to the NESCAC semifinals, and a second-round run in the 2010 NCAA Tournament.

The Jeffs came out focused once play began, jumping out to a 10-5 lead as back-to-back kills from Ahern forced Middlebury head coach Sarah Raunecker to take an early timeout. The Panthers would score the next three points, but Amherst responded with a run of its own, going up 14-8 on a block from Hunter and Nicole Carter ’16. Middlebury would challenge once again, pulling within two at 15-13, but the Jeffs recovered and kept the lead at two or more for the remainder of the set, with Waterhouse eventually hammering home the kill to give Amherst a 25-21 win in the opener.

The second set saw another quick start for Amherst, with a diving Keeno dig leading to a Middlebury hitting error and an 8-4 Jeff lead. The hosts kept up the pressure, with Carter’s ace making it 13-7 and prompting a Panther timeout. Middlebury responded, fighting back to tie the set at 15-15 on Caitlin Barrett’s ace, but Amherst once again had the answer, posting a 7-2 run and taking the set, 25-19, on back-to-back kills from Antion.

It was all Middlebury in set three, however, as the visitors jumped out to a 6-0 lead on a block from Gibbs and Madeline Firestone. The Jeffs would bring it within five at 10-5, but that was as close as they came, with the Panthers opening up a 17-8 lead on a Hart kill and eventually taking the set, 25-13, with a kill from Jarchow and an Amherst hitting error, one of seven miscues for the Jeffs during the forgettable period.

It looked like more of the same to start the fourth set, as Middlebury rode the momentum shift to leads of 12-5 and 17-9. After a Kathryn Haderlein kill put the Panthers up 19-12, Amherst head coach Sue Everden rallied her troops with a timeout and the Jeffs responded, rattling off a 7-1 run and cutting the Middlebury lead to one at 20-19 on an ace from Carter. Things stayed tight but Amherst couldn’t get over the hump. After a clutch Waterhouse dig and Ahern kill made it 23-22, Middlebury scored twice, taking the set, 25-22, on another Jarchow kill.

As with much of the match, the decisive final set proved to be another game of runs. Middlebury grabbed the early edge, with Jarchow putting the guests up 3-0, but Amherst dug deep and fired off the next six points, forcing a Panther timeout when Sammy Newby ’16 hammered home a kill to make it 6-3. Determined not to suffer a second straight home loss in which they led 2-0, the Jeffs kept the run going, as Ahern’s kill staked Amherst to a resounding 12-4 lead.

But Middlebury had one more comeback left, posting an 8-2 run and winning three straight match points as Hart’s kill made it 14-12 and forced Everden to call a final timeout. A thrilling ensuing point appeared to be heading the Panthers’ way when Amherst miscommunication led to a ball in no-man’s land, but Keeno dove to save the play and her hit glanced off the net and dropped on the Middlebury side, giving the Jeffs a dramatic 15-12 win of the set and an impressive match victory over the second-place Panthers.

While Ahern and Antion starred on offense, Carter turned in a stellar all-around effort for Amherst with 45 assists, 10 digs and three aces. Waterhouse finished with 11 kills and 13 digs, while Katie Warshaw ’16 and Keeno starred defensively for the Jeffs, posting 19 and 14 digs, respectively.

Libero Caitlin Barrett led the defensive effort for Middlebury with 25 digs, while Haderlein traded setting duties with Gibbs and finished with 26 assists to go with five kills and an impressive .571 hitting percentage.

Amherst will be back in action on Saturday, hosting archrival Williams at 4 p.m. in the Jeffs’ final home match of the regular season.