Firedogs dig deep before getting spiked

The week began on Wednesday with a convincing 3-0 win over Keene State College. The Firedogs came out strong and never relented, posting game scores of 30-13, 30-11 and 30-15. All 14 members of the team contributed to the win, eight with kills and 11 through defensive digs. Leading the ‘Dogs offensively were Kristin Quinn ’07 with 10 kills and co-captain middle hitter Lauren Wong ’04 with eight. Defensively, the team relied on Kate Raddock ’06 at the libero position, who finished the match with 14 digs.

Standing 7-1 on the season, the Firedogs began the first NESCAC weekend confidently, with a much-anticipated match-up against Williams. Despite the positive momentum from Wednesday’s game and the high expectations of players and fans alike, Amherst was unable to generate enough offense to hold the talented Williams squad at bay and ultimately dropped the match in straight games, 17-30, 25-30 and 25-30.

Coach Sue Everden attributed the loss to a slow start that gave Williams a mental edge for the remainder of the match. “I don’t think [Williams] is an unbeatable team,” she said. “I honestly think this is a mental thing. We came out tentative in the first game and a little into the second.” She credited this tentativeness to the nerves of many of her players, especially the first-years playing in their first Williams game.

Prior to the game, co-captains Jessica Allen ’04 and Wong believed that the key to a victory would be a strong defense, particularly with respect to Williams’ powerful middle hitter Joiya Chadwick. While Chadwick tallied 18 kills, Everden felt that Amherst’s inability to effectively shut down Williams’s offensive weapon, Robin Young, was crucial. “I’m happy with the defense we played on [Chadwick]; it was Robin Young who hurt us from the outside. She’s a smart player.”

Young had 15 kills on the match, not an incredible number but damaging nonetheless. Everden cited a hesitancy in her team’s aggressive offense as a key to Williams’s success at the net. “We didn’t hit the ball; instead, we gave them lots of down balls and frees,” she said. By playing conservatively rather than going for a big kill, the ‘Dogs allowed the Ephs to set the pace of the game and attack the ball repeatedly. “By not hitting the ball, we gave them a few more chances against us,” added Everden.

Everden remains optimistic. “It’s still early in the season, we’ll play them at least two more times in the regular season,” she said. “This is the deepest team I’ve ever coached; I consistently play 12. [The Williams coach] didn’t know who to plan for.”

Quinn and Nikki Davidson ’05 led the offense with 12 and eight kills respectively. Setter Annie Hoeksma ’05 dished out 23 assists and added nine kills of her own. In the libero position, Raddock once again led the team in digs, posting 14. Wong provided the bulk of her team’s blocks with three of her own and one assist.

Saturday, the Firedogs rebounded with two conference wins over Middlebury College (30-28, 30-13, 30-17) and Hamilton College (30-18, 30-6, 30-15). Standouts in these wins were Megan Ingraham, ’07 who tallied 11 kills against Middlebury, Davidson, with 15 kills on Hamilton, and Allen ,who added 15 digs on the day.

The Firedogs look to further their non-league experience as they host five teams this weekend for the annual Amherst Classic, beginning Friday afternoon in LeFrak Gymnasium.