Volleyball Spiked Out of NCAA’s

The Jeffs came into the tournament ready to avenge their loss to Tufts from the NESCAC semifinals. While Amherst dominated Tufts in the regular season, dropping only one set in two victories against the Jumbos, they fell to a cohesive unit that quickly turned the tables on them. The straight-sets loss in LeFrak Gymnasium left the team with plenty to prove heading into the Lesley game. As Cristy Meier ’12 emphasized, “There is nothing worse than the feeling of losing to a team you know you can beat,” and Amherst was ready to move on from only its third loss of the season.

The intensity and enthusiasm the Jeffs brought to the court against Lesley overwhelmed the Lynx, as Amherst took the win with a dominating straight sets score of 25-9, 25-10 and 25-13.

Led by Meier’s 13 kills on 18 attempts, the Firedogs lived up to their billing as the region’s top seed. Meier’s efficiency gave her a 0.722 hitting percentage for the game. Tri-captain Laura Hyman ’11 nearly matched Meier’s mark, posting seven kills in only 10 attempts for a 0.700 percentage. When the Lynx managed to muster a counterattack, the Amherst defense stepped up to suppress any shift in momentum. Kristin Keeno ’13 put up 10 digs in limited opportunities, as the Jeffs were on the offensive for most of the night.

The level of play from coach Sue Everden’s team dipped in the next round, as Amherst fell to Springfield College in straight sets. They struggled mightily in the first two frames, managing hitting percentages of only 0.033 and 0.037 in the first and second sets, respectively. The low marks showed a sharp contrast to the highly effective attack in the Lesley game.

This poor hitting led to lopsided results for the Jeffs, and, by the time the team picked up its focus in the third, it was too late. Despite a strong run, Amherst fell in the third set by a score of 25-20, marking the end of one of the best seasons in program history.

With a final record of 25-4, the Jeffs’ winning percentage of 0.862 is the highest mark in the 25 years Everden has coached the team. Everden displayed great appreciation for her players after the loss, saying: “This is one of the finest groups of young adults I have ever had the privilege of coaching; I feel lucky and blessed to have been able to share the 2010 volleyball season with this group of wonderful human beings.”

Many others noticed the team’s success, both on and off the court. In recognition of their contributions, senior tri-captains Hyman, Rachel Yorke and Jackie Berkley were named to the all-New England Senior Team, and Hyman was also selected for the all-conference NESCAC team and the all-region team by the American Volleyball Coaches Association. In addition, Yorke and Callie Neilson ’13 were honored during the season as NESCAC Players of the Week.

The coach’s effusive words about her squad highlight the way the unit “epitomized team and citizenship in a way that honored their sport and their school,” which is high praise indeed from a seasoned volleyball coach who has seen many a team pass under her guidance. As the seniors graduate, the Jeffs will look to their underclassmen, namely Meier and Neilson, to be the leaders for next year’s team, which already has big shoes to fill.