The win made what would have been an average mid-season strectch remarkable. The Williams victory marks the first time since the 2001 season that the Ephs fell to the ‘Dogs-no senior had ever before beaten their rivals to the northwest. The ‘Dogs dropped the first two games 23-30, 25-30 before rallying for an enormous 30-16 win in the third game. In the fourth frame, Amherst squeaked by with a 30-27 triumph led by the serving of Raddock and Quinn. The Firedogs then raced to 15 points in the fifth game, winning 15-11 and clinching the match.
“It was a total team effort,” said Berkeley. “We came out ready to play and carried the momentum through the whole game.”
The Firedogs split two matches as host of the NES-
CAC Quad hosted at Amherst, defeating Hamilton College on Oct. 7 and dropping a match the next day against Middlebury College. The squad went on to beat Westfield State College on Monday before, falling to Tufts University on Saturday and finally routing Bates College on Sunday.
The first night of the NESCAC Quad saw a 3-0 victory over the Continentals of Hamilton. The Firedogs attacked early and often to gain their second conference win, dominating the Continentals, who are winless in NESCAC play. After working through a 30-20 decision, the ‘Dogs cruised through the next two games, winning 30-11 and 30-14, respectively. With 11 kills, three blocks and two aces, sophomore outside hitter Jaclyn DeMais led the way. Junior outside hitter Kristin Quinn added to the Amherst attack with 10 kills herself, along with five blocks. On the defensive end, sophomore libero Julie Berkley had four digs.
The next day the ‘Dogs found themselves in an old-fashioned dogfight, losing a 3-2 heartbreaker to Middlebury. Starting slow, Amherst lost the first two hard-fought games, 30-23 and 30-25, respectively. But, behind the offense of DeMais, who contributed 14 kills, the Jeffs hung tough and won the next two games convincingly, with victories of 30-18 and 30-20. DeMais did it on the defensive end as well with an outstanding 14 digs. Also bolstering the ‘Dogs’ ‘D’ were Quinn’s five blocks and first-year setter Sara Heller’s seven digs. Heller also helped set the table for finishers like DeMais and Quinn by dishing out 56 assists. With all the momentum on their side, the ‘Dogs seemed poised to take the fifth and deciding game, but fell, 15-10. Despite losing the match, the ‘Dogs showed they had the perseverance to force a fifth game out of an 0-2 hole-perseverance that would resurface at an opportune time.
Motivated by the tough loss, the ‘Dogs took the positives away from their tough match against Middlebury into their next match against Westfield State. Unfortunately for the visiting non-conference Owls, the ‘Dogs meant business. The closest game of the 3-0 victory was, similar to the Hamilton match, the first-a 30-20 decision-followed by 30-18 and 30-15 victories. Although seemingly lopsided, the match was much closer than the scores reveal. With the first game knotted at 13, first-year Hannah Wirth stepped up to propel the offense with five kills in the game, as the Jeffs finished with a 17-7 run.
But the Owls did not go down easily, even holding a 13-11 lead during game two. Again, the ‘Dogs woke up and ended the game on a 19-5 run with Quinn kills accounting for eight of their 30 points.
Amherst’s excellent play carried into the third game with a dominating 30-15 triumph to complete a win in which the defense sparkled. Leading the way was Heller with nine digs, followed by senior tri-captain Kate Raddock and junior Elissa Genereux with eight digs each. Junior Laura Golden and sophomore Julie Berkeley also added seven digs each.
Hoping to build off of the momentum of the sweep victory against Westfield State, Amherst took on the Jumbos of Tufts. Tufts came in boasting a 4-1 record in the conference, and a 17-3 record overall. The ‘Dogs dropped the match 3-1 but played better than the results.
The ‘Dogs played the Jumbos close, losing the first two games 30-24 and 30-27. Despite dropping the first two emotional games, they fought back, winning a nail-biter of a third game, 30-28. In the fourth game the Jumbos proved too tough, eventually prevailing with a 30-24 win and the match.
“We played well against Tufts,” said Berkeley. “They were a very smart team and played smart against us.”
One thing Amherst can take away from the loss is the great play of several first-years. Heller, whose play at setter has been a staple throughout the year, came through once again with 46 assists. She also proved that not only can she set up her teammates, she can finish as well, as she notched three kills. Classmates Hannah Wirth and Alison Munzer also emerged as offensive threats, tallying a combined 16 kills. With three weeks until the NESCAC Championships, if the first-years continue to contribute to the already solid play of the upperclassmen, the team could really make some noise.
The ‘Dogs capped their weekend with another rebound victory on Sunday. Amherst triumphed over Bates, continuing a team trend of easily handling the NESCAC bottom-feeders. With a 3-0 sweep, Amherst cruised through the first two games, winning 30-21, 30-15. Bates fought hard until the end though, making the ‘Dogs earn every point of a hard-fought final game. Amherst eked out a 30-28 win, taking the match.
“I think we took out all of our frustration from the Tufts game on Bates,” Berkeley said. “It shows our maturity to come back after a loss.”
Again, Quinn and DeMais led the attack, with 13 and 10 kills, respectively, with sophomore Whitney Kouvaris pitching in seven kills of her own. Berkley and Golden anchored the defense with a combined 26 digs. The duo also had five aces between them.
The Firedogs hope to utilize their recent momentum as they head into the Hall of Fame Tournament this weekend at Smith College.