Last Wednesday, the team took the short trip to Smith College, where it outplayed and ultimately overwhelmed the Pioneers. The Jeffs’ attack, led by 10 kills from Cristy Meier ’12 and seven more from Katherine Kanoff ’12, proved too much for Smith, as the Pioneers could not muster much of a response.
The Jeffs took the match in three lopsided sets, with scores of 25-7, 25-13 and 25-10. Smith coach Angela Mills ’95 tried to halt the Amherst onslaught with two early timeouts in the first set, but her tactics had no effect on her alma mater’s team.
Veteran Amherst coach Sue Everden found an opportunity to give playing time to younger players Megan McCafferty ’14, Claire Hoffman ’14 and Abigail Hunter ’13, as the three showcased their abilities in helping to close out the Pioneers.
The competition was significantly ratcheted up over the weekend, when the Jeffs traveled to Hamilton to take on archrival Williams on Friday and the host Continentals on Saturday.
After the blowout at Smith, Amherst showed great poise under pressure to defeat the Ephs in five sets. Amherst played well at the outset, winning the first two sets by scores of 25-22 and 25-17. However, Williams came back strong to snatch the next two, 21-25 and 16-25.
Facing the possibility of a dreaded loss to the Ephs, Amherst stepped up and swung the momentum back their way. The final frame came the Jeffs’ way to a hotly-contested tune of 18-16.
Tri-captain Rachel Yorke ’11 put up 40 digs to lead the defense, and Callie Neilson ’13 set up the offense nicely with 51 assists. Meier led the charge for the Jeffs with 16 kills, followed by Kanoff and tri-captain Jackie Berkley ’11, who added nine kills each.
The main weapon for Williams was senior captain Kate Anderson, who posted a remarkable 25 kills in a single match, albeit in a losing effort.
To follow up the exhilarating win over Williams, Amherst ended the season by beating Hamilton in four sets. After a sluggish start, the Jeffs overcame a close first set loss to take the next three frames by commanding scores of 25-17, 25-10 and 25-7. Berkley’s presence on the frontline was an intimidating force in this one, as she had 12 huge kills to support the attacking duo of Meier and Kanoff, who combined for 26 kills themselves.
The win over Hamilton earned the Jeffs the top seed in the NESCAC tournament, which means that the entire tournament will take place at home for the Jeffs in LeFrak.
Play begins Friday evening at 5 p.m., when Amherst will look to begin a deep run into the tournament against eighth-seeded Wesleyan. According to tri-captains Berkley, Yorke and Laura Hyman ’11, the team can accomplish its goals if it “does the small things right every time, continues to strengthen communication and maintains focus.”
Looking back on the regular season, the Jeffs have plenty of impressive omens. In addition to boasting a record of 23-2, with a stellar 9-1 mark in conference games, the Jeffs won 70 sets throughout the season while dropping only 17. But with the NESCAC tournament coming to Amherst for the first time since 2007, these accomplishments have faded into the background, as postseason success trumps everything else for the team.
Despite the enormously successful regular season, the captains remain far from overconfident, saying, “The opportunity to play at home is exciting and the top seed puts us in a good position for the first round, but the NESCAC is super strong this year so every match here on out is going to be a battle.” This determined attitude bodes well for the team’s chances, but come Friday, everything but the tournament goes out the window as the best of the NESCAC fight it out.