On Sept. 12, Amherst handed Smith College (2-1) its first loss of the season in a marathon match lasting over two hours. The ‘Dogs lost a close opening game, 27-30, before coming back to beat the Pioneers twice by scores of 30-27 and 30-26. In game two, the ‘Dogs took the lead from the start without looking back, though the lead dwindled from as high as 10 points to only one. Game three was marked by similar excitement, as the ‘Dogs let the Pioneers come back from an 11 point deficit to make it a nail-biter.
Amherst held on to win the game and lead the match 2-1. However, Smith had no intention of allowing the match to come to an early conclusion and rallied to eek out a five-point victory in game four to force a decisive fifth game. Amherst won the rubber game handily by a score of 15-12. The Dogs came out on fire, scoring six straight service points to begin. Though the Pioneers again closed the gap, the ‘Dogs managed to outlast them and hang on for victory.
Senior co-captains Erin Dittus and Missy Mordy agreed that closing out games seemed to be a problem for the Firedogs against Smith.
“We seem to start off really well, for the most part, and have trouble getting those last few points,” said Mordy.
Dittus and outside hitter Jessica Allen ’04 led the offense with 11 kills each, while freshmen Sara Bruggeman, the middle hitter, and Kate Raddock, the outside hitter, made an impact with 10 and nine kills, respectively.
Six of Raddock’s kills came in the final game of the match. Defensively, setter Irene Lee ’03 had 18 digs and Allen chipped in with 15. Bruggeman also helped lead the defense with 11 block assists, almost equaling the 13 tallied by the entire Smith squad. Kate Sorenson shined for Smith with a match-high 25 kills and a solid 18 digs.
Though the Dogs managed to come away with a win, the night was not a complete triumph, as outside hitter Nicole Davidson ’05 suffered an ankle injury near the end of game four.
In Amherst’s second match of the season, 12 different players saw time on the court as Head Coach Sue Everden experimented with various line-ups.
The next night saw another victory for the Jeffs as Amherst downed Western Connecticut State University (1-2). This time, winning came more easily, as the ‘Dogs shut out the Colonials with a 3-0 victory. Amherst’s play improved with each game, winning first by three points, then by 11 and finally crushing Western Conn., 30-12.
The team’s third victory in four nights bodes well for the Firedog’s endurance, as this season’s schedule includes at least four two-day competitions. “Because we play two or three matches a day, to be able to play back to back and play very well is really promising,” said Mordy.
Amherst’s balanced offense saw six different players tally six or more kills. Raddock chipped in 10, while Dittus and Allen again contributed twin kills with nine apiece. Middle hitter Lauren Wong ’04, setter Annie Hoeksma ’05 and Bruggeman added six kills each.
Defensively, Amherst shut down Western Conn’s offense with more steady play. Allen had a match-high 16 digs and Raddock added 13. Lee again played strong defense with nine digs, and Hoeksma and Mordy helped out with six and five digs, respectively. Bruggeman again led in the category of block assists with eight to her name.
Outside hitter Lindsey Gloster played solidly for the defending Little East Conference champion Colonials, finishing with 12 kills and 12 digs.
Although the ‘Dogs managed to come away with victories both nights, the team still has a few kinks to iron out before conference play gets underway.
A goal for Wednesday evening’s match at Keene State University is to “feel a little more comfortable playing with each other no matter what the line-up,” said Dittus.
Mordy was pleased with the play of the team’s freshman contingent.
“They showed a lot of poise and maturity on the court,” said Mordy. “I was really proud of how they responded to the pressure of playing in their first collegiate games.”
This week the team will also begin league play against various Conference opponents at the NESCAC Quads at Connecticut College.