With new coach, women's ice hockey gears up for glory

But with the influx of seven first-years and a new head coach on the bench, this year’s installment of Jeffs is fully capable of returning to the playoffs and advancing deep into the postseason.

“We have a really wonderful class coming in that is going to add a lot of depth to the team,” said co-captain Amanda Muller ’04.

Jim Plumer is the new head coach of the team, taking over for Kay Cowperthwait, who had been at the helm for six seasons and guided the Jeffs to two consecutive playoff berths.

Amherst struggled in the regular season, coming up with outright victories in only three contests in the 2002-03 campaign. As a result, their main goal in the upcoming season will be a simple one: to win games.

Plumer comes to Amherst from Bowdoin College, a top program on the national level, where he worked as an assistant for three years. The Bowdoin Polar Bears advanced to the NCAA Final Four last year before falling to Manhattanville College, 4-1.

Plumer has been pleased with the team’s effort thus far. “I’ve been impressed by their work ethic,” he said. “[They] have all been very motivated from day one. They worked hard in the preseason, they want to learn and they have been very attentive in practice.”

The first issue facing Plumer is the goaltending situation. Plumer was undoubtedly familiar with Heidi Alexander ’03, who was the starting goalie for Amherst in her four years. With a stingy .850 save percentage in her senior season and four full seasons under her belt, Alexander will certainly be missed. However, her departure opens the door for a pair of goalies, junior K.C. Cosentino and rookie Lindsay Grabowski, to make an impact. For Amherst to have a big year, Cosentino and Grabowski will have to play close to, if not equal to, the standard set by Alexander over the past four seasons despite their lack of college-level experience.

Another big challenge for Amherst will be scoring goals. Amherst scored just 36 goals in 24 games last year, and Danielle Williams ’03 had a hand in 19 of them, with nine goals and 10 assists. If the Jeffs want to improve on their conference record and overall win-loss record from a year ago, they’ll have to find production from different sources.

Forward Alison White ’04 will have to step into Williams’ role from a year ago. White is the team’s active leader in career scoring, with 49 goals over the past three seasons. Hopefully she will be able to produce stats like she did her freshman season, in which she scored 10 goals and assisted on 17 more.

Co-captain forward Tory Serues ’04 will also look to light the lamp for the Jeffs. Serues scored five goals and added an assist last year. She has been Amherst’s third-leading point scorer for the past two seasons.

Amherst’s fourth-leading point scorer, forward Renee Sisti ’06, returns to the team after playing in only half of last season’s schedule due to injury.

The defense for Amherst will be anchored by the Jeffs’ other co-captain, Muller. Muller, who returns to full strength this year after struggling with a leg injury last winter, will help cut down the number of shots against, an area in which Amherst struggled last season.

In addition to these challenges, the Jeffs face the task of adjusting to a new coach, a change that often takes time to become comfortable. However, new styles of play and instruction could also serve to invigorate the team.

Despite the graduation of Alexander and Williams, Amherst is a deeper team than it was a year ago. With seven first-years joining the roster, Plumer will be able to cycle three lines, a luxury Cowperthwait could not always enjoy during her tenure.

“We are hoping for a team composed not of individual players but people who can play off one another,” explained Muller.

While the rest of the College community returns home to get a jump-start on Thanksgiving, the Jeffs will be opening their conference schedule with a pair of games on the road this weekend. The team, in Muller’s words, is looking to focus on “forming a more cohesive unit on the ice. The team is looking to connect more passes and work through some new plays.”

Amherst travels to Trinity College Friday night before taking on Wesleyan University Saturday afternoon. Amherst went 1-2-1 in its games against Trinity and Wesleyan last year, so this weekend will be a good opportunity for the Jeffs to pick up some points early in the campaign.

“I’m really excited,” said Plumer. “I have a lot of optimism because of their attitude, and also because there is a lot of talent on the team.”