Fluid transition coupled with a fierce offensive attack combined to give the Firedogs the edge through most of the weekend. Their only loss came in the first match on Friday at the hands of a relentless Springfield College squad. Amherst jumped out to a powerful start, taking the first two games 31-29 and 30-28. However, the ‘Dogs were unable to generate enough momentum to keep the outcome in their favor, and dropped the next three games, 20-30, 18-30 and 12-15.
Despite the outcome, Amherst played an impressive and very aggressive match, posting a total of 54 kills and 15.5 blocks as a team. With the help of setter Annie Hoeksma ’05, who dished out 43 assists, the ‘Dogs were led offensively by outside hitters Nikki Davidson ’05, with 13 kills, and Kristin Quinn ’07, with 12. Kate Raddock ’06 took command of the defense, tallying 20 digs from the libero position.
This game was only the second five-game marathon match that Amherst has played all season. The other, against Western Connecticut State University, had the same disappointing outcome. Those two matches “have nothing to do with our skill level, it’s entirely a mental problem,” said senior co-captain middle hitter Lauren Wong. “When we lose the third game, our whole mentality changes and we start playing more tentatively.”
Though Amherst may have let up mentally, one cannot overlook the impressive play of Springfield. “Springfield is a strong team and they did not give up until the game was over,” said Raddock. “They stepped it up and we didn’t.”
This inability to step it up may be a result of the team’s relatively young age. Coach Sue Everden consistently plays all five of the team’s first-years, who may still be adjusting to the collegiate level of play.
“Because our team is so young, we might just need some time to reach a level of confidence in each other that will allow us to get up and stay up for big matches,” said Davidson.
Though refocusing to put away a win may be something the ‘Dogs need to work on in the future, they certainly had no trouble putting the loss behind them to rally for the rest of the weekend. Amherst stormed back to win all three matches over Smith College, Trinity College and Wesleyan University in convincing fashion.
Smith presented little difficulty for Amherst, which swept the Pioneers in three games with scores of 30-19, 30-28 and 30-22. A consistent yet varied attack provided the foundation of Amherst’s game. All eight front-row players recorded kills while maintaining an impressive .344 kill percentage as a team. Led by co-captain outside hitter Jessica Allen ’04, the defense also played consistently. Allen posted 13 digs on the game while first-year Mikela Yarawamai added 10.
Saturday’s games brought more difficulty for the ‘Dogs, as they dropped one game in each match en route to a pair of 3-1 victories. Against Trinity, Amherst’s success was the direct result of solid play at the net. Led by Quinn with 13 and Davidson with 11, the team ran up 44 kills to get the win (30-19, 24-30, 30-18, 30-24). Quinn, Wong, Davidson and middle blocker Sara Bruggeman ’06 combined for an astounding 20 blocks, defying the hard-hitting Trinity squad. Allen and Raddock provided the majority of the ‘Dogs’ defense, posting 18 and 12 digs, respectively.
The last match of the weekend against the host team proved the most challenging victory for the ‘Dogs. Despite dropping the second game to Wesleyan, Amherst was able to maintain the momentum and come away with the win (30-26, 28-30, 30-28, 30-20). Hoeksma totaled 36 assists in the victory, 16 of which found the hard-hitting hand of Kristin Quinn. Throughout the course of the weekend, Quinn totaled 47 kills and 33 blocks, earning her All-Tournament honors. This award marks the second of its kind for Quinn, who also was made the All-Tournament team at the Western New England College invitational tournament three weeks ago.
The Firedogs travel to Hartford, Conn. next weekend looking to expand on their 2-1 conference record. They will seek repeat victories over both Trinity and Wesleyan while taking on Connecticut College for the first time this season.