With a 1-0 win on Saturday at Hitchcock Field, the site of a season-ending 2-1 overtime loss to Williams College, Amherst did away with the specter of that 5-8, non-postseason campaign. With a resounding, 5-1 win at Pioneer Valley foe Smith College last night, the Jeffs truly erased any nostalgia for the departed class of 2005.
It’s a new team and a new season, and any questions Amherst fans had about a team with 17 sophomore and first-year members and just three seniors have fallen by the wayside.
Saturday’s win over conference rival Trinity College made clear the difference between this year’s squad and the 2004 team. A year ago, the Bantams handed the Jeffs an opening day, 5-3 loss while outshooting the Jeffs 22-8. This time, Amherst was on the other end of a game that belied its close score.
The Jeffs defense permitted just five shots, all of which were stopped by sophomore goalie Kathleen Boucher, who garnered her first career shutout as the Jeffs won their opening match with one goal on 13 shots.
The Jeffs’ defense was anchored by veteran Amy Watson ’07 but also received significant contributions from underclassmen Lauren Benson ’08 and Catherine Calvert ’09.
Despite the excellent defensive effort, the game was knotted in a shutout deep into the second half. In a most dramatic fashion, senior tri-captain forward Katherine Skrivan knocked in a shot set up by sophomore midfielder Samantha Miller with 3:18 remaining.
Amherst’s underclassmen were important to the victory. Seven sophomores (four of whom started) saw playing action, and rookies Calvert and Alyssa Dudzik, a midfielder, both started.
The effort was not lost on their classmates. “I think the team was really able to come together and pull through when we needed it,” said forward Caitlin Guinee ’09. “It was great to get that first win; it’s a great way to start the season.”
The veterans agreed. “I think that we played really well for such a young team; we lost a lot of key starters last season, and people are starting to step up a lot,” said Watson. “We still have a lot to work on, but Saturday was a great start to the season.”
Saturday’s start was echoed by Tuesday’s steamrolling of Smith in Northampton. The Amherst defense was once again stifling as Smith managed just eight shots on goal, with only one coming in the first half. Meanwhile the offense was firing on all cylinders, as Skrivan, midfielder Carolyn Shea ’08 and forward Christa Porcaro ’08 each scored one goal apiece, while midfielder Rachel Carr-Harris ’07 scored twice and forward Molly Gilbert ’06 notched two assists. Boucher made two saves in the win.
Skrivan and Carr-Harris are on pace to eclipse their totals last season of six and three goals, respectively, while the younger offensive players are also coming into their own. Porcaro’s goal was the first of her career, and Shea equaled last year’s output of one goal in just two games.
Amherst will try to remain undefeated on Saturday against Bates College in Lewiston, Me. The Bobcats struggled last year and failed to make the NESCAC Tournament, providing an excellent opportunity for the team to improve to 3-0 overall and 2-0 in conference play. After the weekend, the competition will improve markedly, highlighted by a home match-up against last year’s number-one tournament seed Middlebury College on Oct. 8 and a repeat of the Jeffs’ season-ending tilt in Williamstown against hated rivals and defending NESCAC champion Ephs.