'Dogs mark their territory with second-place finish

Amherst jumped out to a 1-0 lead against non-conference foe Smith with a 30-26 effort, but dropped the next three games 30-22, 30-19, 30-27. Junior outside hitter Kristin Quinn propelled the ‘Dogs with 15 kills, eight digs and two blocks, while sophomore outside hitter Jaclyn DeMais also contributed 15 kills and a team-high 23 digs. Outside hitters Alison Munzer ’09 and Whitney Kouvaris ’08 added 13 and 12 kills, respectively, to the offensive effort. First-year setter Sara Heller’s 45 assists and 12 kills bolstered the attack, while junior defensive specialist Laura Golden and tri-captain outside hitter Kate Raddock ’06 supplied 21 and 20 digs, respectively, to keep the Pioneer offense in check.

“The match against Smith was tough, but one in which we fought until the end,” said Heller. “I think losing to them made us that much more eager and motivated to come to practice and work harder. There are so many new players in the NESCAC and New England region and we know we can’t underestimate any team out there.”

“Although we were disappointed, we played as a team for the first time against Smith,” said DeMais. “The first game against Smith served as an example of what we are capable of if we work as a unit.”

On Friday, the Firedogs traveled to Middletown, Conn., for the two-day Wesleyan Invitational. Amherst lost to the host Cardinals in three games on the first night, which left a bad taste in the Firedogs’ mouths. “You can bet next time we face Wesleyan we will want revenge and will stop at nothing to get it,” said DeMais. Wesleyan fed off its 30-21, 30-25, 30-18 victory to capture the tournament title.

Amherst also went on a winning spree, claiming both of its matches in the second part of the tournament to earn second place overall. The ‘Dogs snapped their two-game slump with a 27-30, 30-15, 30-14, 30-23 win over non-conference opponent Wheaton. DeMais led the ‘Dogs with 16 kills, while Heller provided 36 assists. Raddock and defensive specialist Julie Berkley ’08 had 25 digs collectively.

Later that afternoon the Firedogs defeated NESCAC rival Trinity, 13-30, 30-20, 30-17, 30-23. DeMais was stellar yet again, posting nine kills, two blocks and an ace, while Quinn and Kouvaris each had 10 kills and two blocks. Raddock and Golden paced the defense, combining for 27 digs. Raddock and Quinn earned all-tournament honors for the second-place ‘Dogs.

“Kate Raddock has the most heart I’ve seen in a player. She lays it all out, and nothing can stop her,” said DeMais. “What makes her such a good player is that she not only plays with heart, but she makes stuff happen on the court at the crucial moments.”

The squad proved that it can come up big as a whole, especially after losing the first game of a match.

“Our 3-1 wins were a display of hunger,” said Heller. “We dropped the first games in both, but this gave us time to refocus on our plan of attack. The next three games we overpowered our opponents with smart play, consistency and huge intensity.”

With such a strong finish, the ‘Dogs are looking forward to continuing their conference slate. Their next game is at home versus NESCAC opponent Hamilton College on Friday.