'Dogs make early exit from tournament, fall to Jumbos, 3-0, in quarterfinal match

But what looked like a portend for things to come, and a building block for bigger victories, will now have to serve as the highlight of the year. The Firedogs, the number-seven seed in the NESCAC Tournament, lost to number-two Tufts University in Friday night’s quarterfinal match. Unable to find a way to snatch the key points, the ‘Dogs allowed the Jumbos to take the match in three close games. Tufts went on to defeat Trinity College, 3-1, only to lose the title match to host Colby in three games.

Against the 25-5 Jumbos, the Firedogs came out of the gates playing well, but eventually lost the first game 30-25. Game two gave the impression that Amherst would fight back. Matching the Jumbos point for point, the Firedogs fought to even the match at one game apiece, but Tufts again proved too tough and emerged with a 32-30 victory. The third game was to be the last for this year’s squad, as the Jumbos finished the job, 30-23, and took the match.

Although the ‘Dogs proved a worthy adversary for to Tufts, the pressure of the one-and-done nature of the postseason may have gotten to them. Outside hitter Jaclyn DeMais ’08, one of the shining stars of this year’s squad acknowledged some timidity. “We would have won all three games against Tufts if we played fearlessly,” she said. “The looming threat of a final match may have frozen us a bit, but we still put up a good fight.”

The ‘Dogs got a strong defensive effort from tri-captain outside hitter setter Kate Raddock ’06 and setter Julie Berkley ’08, who combined for 27 digs-15 and 12, respectively. DeMais pitched in with eight digs, and setter Sara Heller ’09 had seven. On the offensive side, DeMais led the ‘Dogs with 14 kills. Contributing to the offensive effort, Kristin Quinn ’07 and Whitney Kouvaris ’08 slammed home eight kills apiece.

This postseason should not cloud the accomplishments the team has made this year. Not only did the ‘Dogs wrest a victory from Williams, this young squad also finished tied for third in the NESCAC with a 6-4 conference mark, posting three-game victories over rivals Bowdoin, Hamilton and Bates Colleges.

Individually, DeMais and Quinn led the team in kills this year, with 3.6 and 3.1 per game, respectively. Kouvaris chipped in 2.3 kills per game as well, and Heller served up just under 10 assists per contest. On the end, defensive setter Laura Golden ’07 posted 2.3 digs per game, and Berkley had 2.7.

Looking ahead to next year, the future shines brightly for the volleyball team. DeMais and Quinn, who emerged as dominating forces this year, will return to wreak havoc at the net. Kouvaris, after an impressive sophomore campaign, should figure into the mix as well. Berkley and Golden, after an important season of gained experience, will be diving on the floor, digging out foes’ spikes again next year. Heller, who accounted for about 90 percent of the ‘Dogs assists, will be back to feed favorite targets DeMais and Quinn. Other players who will look to make bigger contributions next year are first-years outside hitter Alison Munzer and middle hitters Hannah Wirth and Claire Holton-Basaldua.

Of course, Amherst will sorely miss the senior tri-captains who have steered the team during their College careers. It will be impossible to replace the hard play and leadership of Raddock, middle hitter/outside hitter Sarah Bruggeman ’06 and outside hitter Natalie Soud ’06.

Most importantly, the times these women went through this season transcend wins and losses. While the ‘Dogs had their ups and downs this year, the experience of competing in college athletics will matter most to the volleyball team.

“This was a very young team, but we grew together as the season progressed on and off the court,” said DeMais. “There were some bumps in the road, but we made some great achievements that should not be overlooked. I’ve had so much fun with these women and these past months have been unforgettable.”