“I think that all that can really be said about NCAAs is that we played well,” said Erica Hewes ’02. “It was a tough game that just didn’t end up going our way.”
The loss concluded the Firedog’s 2000 campaign with a final record of 27-5. The last time the Firedogs faced the Bobcats, in last week’s NESCAC Conference Championship Tournament on Nov. 4, the Amherst squad came away with a decisive 3-1 win over Bates in the tournament’s championship game.
The Firedogs had also rallied to beat the Bobcats on two other occasions during the course of the season.
“Unfortunately, playing Bates for the NESCAC Championship the weekend before and then seeing them in NCAAs led to a tough situation,” said Hewes. “It’s really hard to beat a good team four times [in one season].”
Meredith DeMeules ’02 seconded Hewes’ observations. “It just happened that we lost to them for the first time in NCAAs,” she said. “The fact that we are 3-1 against them is really great.”
The victory over the Bobcats in the NESCAC Tournament the weekend before gave the Firedogs an automatic bid to the Regional NCAA Tournament.
Bates, meanwhile, who had racked up a 29-8 record overall on its season, received an at-large bid to the Regional Tournament. In beating the Firedogs via a five-game thriller, the Bobcats pushed their 2000 campaign farther into the NCAA Tournament than ever before in their program history, reaching the regional championship game.
Unfortunately for the Bobcats, however, they eventually fell to regional powerhouse Wellesley College in the tournament final the next day. Wellesley went on to take the regional championship and qualify for the national championship.
The Amherst-Bates match was a battle from the very beginning. In the first game, the Bobcats led almost from beginning to end. Bobcat Lauren Fennessey smashed a ball into the Firedog court to take the first game in Bates’ favor, 12-15, despite a mounting comeback from the Firedogs.
The Amherst squad pushed through the next two games, taking them both by a decisive 15-8, 15-1 margin.
On the verge of defeat, the Bates team battled back in the fourth game. They took the early lead, 7-2, before the Firedogs fought back to tie the game at 10 and again at 12. Then, Bates hitter Liz Wanless notched two quick kills to seal the fourth game win for Bates, 12-15.
The deciding game featured five separate scoring ties. In the end, after seeing the score tied at 13, Bates finally took the game and the match from Amherst with a kill and a solo block.
For Amherst, Hewes led the offense, notching a match-high 25 kills for the Firedogs. Hewes was partnered with DeMeules, who led the Firedogs in assists on the season as the squad’s consistent setter. For the Bates squad, Fennessey and Kate Hagstrom raised eyebrows with 21 kills and 58 assists, respectively.
Despite the loss, Hewes had few regrets. “Still, it was a great season,” she said. “I think that the whole team is proud of our many accomplishments.”
“I’m just proud of our team for having such a great season and winning the NESCAC’s,” added DeMeules. “[The NESCAC Championship] was the most rewarding for me, since the NESCAC competition this year was so tight.”
The Firedogs finished their season with a dominating record, their second consecutive NESCAC championship, and their third consecutive trip to the NCAA Regional Tournament.
The Firedogs’ two graduating seniors, Co-captains Liza Abeles and Carrie Snyder, ended their Firedog careers with a 106-31 record.
DeMeules analyzed her team’s makeup. “I think our team is really well-rounded and does not depend on just one person to win, which I think some teams do,” she said. “All of our players are very strong, dependable and fun to play with. Everyone has great fire and team spirit.”