The Amherst volleyball team has always gone its own way and has a long history of leadership from within. The team’s nickname, the Firedogs, speaks to this long tradition of independence.
The squad is, after all, the only varsity team at Amherst to eschew the current and past mascot in favor of its longtime moniker dating back to the squad’s club team days.
This year’s team is no different from those first trailblazers, in that they are burdened with carrying on a legacy of independent excellence that has characterized the volleyball program for almost as long as Sue Everden, the head coach, has paced the purple and white sidelines of LeFrak Gymnasium.
Everden has guided the Mammoths to an impressive 713-283 overall record during her 34 years at the helm, during which time the Mammoths have earned three NESCAC conference championships, seven NCAA Championship berths, amassed 24 20-plus-win seasons and vaulted Everden into the upper echelon of DIII coaches.
Despite this consistent success, the Mammoths have never truly been able to push themselves over the top and make a true run at an NCAA championship, with the program’s previous best result coming in 2006, when the team made the NCAA Quarterfinals.
This year’s group, highlighted by six seniors, returns 12 members from last year’s team, adding only four first years to a squad that went 22-5 after starting the season 10-0.
Although the team only lost two seniors from last year’s group, both Hayes Honea ’19 and Lauren Reppert ’19 were large components of the team’s successes. The Firedogs are well-positioned to overcome these departures with numerous returning players ready to assume their influential roles.
So far, returning offensive threats Jamie Dailey ’21, Emily Kolsky ’20 and Sophie Launsbach ’22 have shouldered much of the attacking load for the Firedogs in their charge for a 22nd-straight NESCAC tournament appearance, with each amassing over 20 kills apiece.
However, it has been the unselfish, standout play of senior Charlotte Duran, the team’s main facilitator and the lynchpin for the team’s offense, that has been most remarkable during the team’s three opening games. Of the team’s 129 assisted points (out of 133 total) played during the season thus far, Duran has assisted on 111 of them, a remarkable rate of effectiveness that underscores her essential role on this veteran team.
This offensive excellence has been complimented by stalwart defensive play and consistently error-free play with the Firedogs executing a remarkable 17.3 digs per set and only 4.2 unforced errors per set.
Over the first three games against Smith, Western New England University and Emerson College, the Firedogs have only dropped one set while winning nine, carrying them to a perfect 3-0 record so far.
Amherst has three more games before it begins conference play, with its next contest away at Clark University this Friday at 6 p.m.