Jeffs find silver lining in WNEC win

Consistency is what’s lacking for the Jeffs, both within games and from contest to contest. The past few weeks have exemplified this problem, as Amherst has struggled to put together two halves of top-notch hockey.

The Jeffs entered Saturday’s game at Colby College seeking their first conference win since Sept. 17. The White Mules came into the game with an 0-6 NESCAC record and languishing at the bottom of the standings while the Jeffs were right in the thick of the league. Perhaps it was the inclement weather or the long drive up to Maine the evening before, but Amherst did not look like the team with the wins under its belt.

Despite jumping out to a one-goal lead four minutes into the first half courtesy of senior tri-captain midfielder Katherine Skrivan’s goal-assisted by sophomore forward Christa Porcaro-the Jeffs were by and large outplayed by their White Mule counterparts, particularly in the second frame. The teams went into the second half with the score tied at 1-1 courtesy of a Colby goal with 13:20 left in the period, and it seemed like anyone’s game.

Unfortunately for the Jeffs, Colby outshot Amherst 11-1 on the half with 11 penalty corners to Amherst’s zero. Amherst had one goal called back late in the game but just could not get the ball into Colby’s defensive circle. The Jeff defense managed to stave off an offensive onslaught for almost 33 minutes, but in the end White Mule Nikki Stadelman put in the game winner with 2:04 left in the contest. Colby got off an astounding 31 shots on the day-only eight of which were on goal-to Amherst’s seven.

“The Colby game was a really tough loss for us,” said junior defender Amy Watson. “We started off strong, which is usually a big problem for us, but Colby was really hustling the whole game. They started beating us to the ball and we lost momentum-we never gave up, but we also didn’t recover.”

Amherst struggled similarly in an Oct. 13 loss to non-conference opponent Babson College, playing strong field hockey in the first half and letting down its guard in the second half. The Jeffs traveled to Wellesley, Mass., for an evening game under the lights on the Beavers’ turf. The atmosphere energized Amherst for the first half, as the Jeffs hammered nine shots at Beaver goalkeeper Elissa Slovin. Sophomore forward Christa Porcaro scored unassisted 13:42 in, but that would be the only time the Jeffs would break into the scoring column.

Again, Amherst went into halftime with optimism: The Jeffs were up 1-0 and outshot the Beavers by a goal. Again, a poor second half resulted in another tally in Amherst’s loss column as Babson exploded with four goals in the second half. Rookie defender Catherine Calvert added three defensive saves to her league-leading total of six on the year.

The bright spot in the past few weeks came on Oct. 6, as Amherst hammered Western New England College (WNEC) 3-0 at Hitchcock Field. This time, Amherst struggled in the first half, managing only four shots in the scoreless frame, before coming out with all cylinders firing in the second half. The story of the day was the play of first-year forward Mary Noonan, who scored her first two collegiate goals in the second half. It was senior tri-captain forward Molly Gilbert who put in the game-winner, however, off an assist by Porcaro.

As Amherst enters the final stretch of the regular season, the team can look to its performance against WNEC and strong halves in the Colby and Babson matches.

“We really need to work on our confidence,” said Gilbert. “Even though we are such a young team, we are incredibly smart, skilled players-we just need to realize that. When we focus on playing our game and don’t let other teams rattle our confidence, we are as good a team as any in the NESCAC.”

Amherst will need confidence for what looks to be the most important few days of the season. Today Amherst hosts Middlebury College at 4 p.m. before hosting Wesleyan University on Saturday in a Homecoming tilt.