Volleyball: 'Dogs take a bite out of WNEC Invitational

The star of the weekend was sophomore outside hitter Kristin Quinn, who was named Tournament MVP and also earned a spot on the All-Tournament team for her 57-kill, 19-block performance. Also earning the All-Tournament nod was senior co-captain setter Annie Hoeksma ’05, who accounted for all but four of Amherst’s assists with 133.

Amherst trounced Framingham State University, 3-0 (30-24, 30-12, 30-16), on Friday evening to set the tone for the weekend. A very even attack marked Amherst’s game, as five players recorded five or more kills. Quinn’s 17 led the way, followed by junior middle hitter Sara Bruggeman’s 12 kills and rookie outside hitter Jaclyn DeMais’ 11. Demais chipped in on defense as well in a stellar, well-rounded debut in the purple and white. She added nine digs and three blocks. Her classmate, libero Julie Berkley, also acquitted herself well in her first college match, adding nine digs to the ‘Dogs’ total of 44.

“Julie [Berkley] played excellently all weekend,” said Bruggeman.

Outside hitter Kate Raddock ’06 led the team with 12 digs.

Amherst carried the high from the previous evening’s win into Saturday morning’s play, recording two straight perfect victories. First, Amherst beat Westfield State College with ease (30-17, 30-12, 30-17), before defeating host WNEC with similar aplomb (30-13, 30-21, 30-14).

Amherst was able to clear the bench against Westfield State, with 12 players seeing time on court. Hoeksma paced the offense with 30 assists. The statistics mimicked the previous evening’s numbers as Quinn again led the team in kills and blocks (10 and six, respectively). Bruggeman again had the second-most digs on the match (six) with DeMais following closely (five). In fact, the trio accounted for 121 of the team’s 176 kills on the weekend-over two-thirds of the team’s total.

Newcomers shone on the defense. Berkley led the team with seven digs, while fellow rookie Robyn Pront had five.

“All the defensive players played great,” said Bruggeman. “I think they surprised a lot of us.”

In the second match of the morning against WNEC, Quinn’s dominance continued as she tallied 15 kills. DeMais poured in nine more while Raddock chipped in with eight. On defense, Bruggeman’s four blocks led the way, followed by three apiece from Hoeksma, Quinn and DeMais.

After this victory, Amherst had a two-hour wait for the championship match against Plymouth State.

“I think it was hard to push through three games in a row after playing one match Friday night and then two matches on Saturday morning and then waiting for two hours for the final match,” said Hoeksma.

The exhaustion did not show at first, however, as Amherst took the first game, 30-21. Plymouth State bounced back in the second game with a five-point victory. In games three and four, the teams traded 30-28 wins. The deciding game, however, proved that this year’s edition of the Firedogs is ready to carry on the winning tradition.

“We were losing five to one in the fifth game and still came back to win 15-10,” said Hoeksma. “We knew that we were there to win and we proved to ourselves that we were the stronger team both mentally and physically.”

Added Bruggeman, “It showed our tenacity and ability to pull it together when it really counts.”

Hoeksma herself was stellar in the final match, recording all of the team’s 39 assists. Quinn solidified the offense and the defense for the fourth straight game, leading the team with 15 kills and five blocks.

First-years again provided a punch in both the offensive and defensive categories. DeMais had 10 kills while Berkley led the team with 17 digs.

“Jaclyn [DeMais] and Julie [Berkley] both had an amazing tournament for first-years,” said Hoeksma. “Julie [Berkley] was especially strong in the back row … And Jaclyn [DeMais] really helped us out in the front row with her blocking and her hitting.”

Hopefully the Firedogs will be able to keep the flames of this early-season victory burning as the season continues. The team is pleased with this first performance, and rightfully so.

“I thought our performance this weekend was great, especially with it being our first tournament of the season,” said Hoeksma. “We played as a team and were working really well together … Without good passes, it’s extremely difficult to get a good set to the hitter, but the passes were great.”

However, she still sees some room for improvement. “I think we will definitely still be working on our passing as well as running different plays for the hitters,” said Hoeksma.

Amherst travels to Keene State University tonight for a non-conference matchup. The ‘Dogs begin NESCAC play on Friday night at Tufts University, taking on the Trinity College Bantams at 8:00p.m. The next day, Amherst faces Connecticut College and Wesleyan University. Amherst looks to come home with three more wins under its belt and perhaps a perfect record of 8-0 when the week is through.

The Jeffs are confident that this weekend was only a preview of better things to come.”We’ll be able to step it up,” said Bruggeman.