However, the Jeffs are “all aware that awards mean nothing until you perform and can back them up,” said senior tri-captain goaltender Brooke Diamond.
“First and foremost, we just want to play to our potential, and that potential is a high one,” she added.
With many key starters returning, particularly on the offensive end, the Jeffs are predicted to do well in the NESCAC and in the national rankings.
Diamond will look to continue her stellar play in the net for Amherst this year. She claimed the IWLCA Div. III Goaltender of the Year award last season in addition to a variety of other honors. In 980 minutes of play, Diamond allowed only 112 goals for a stingy .644 save percentage. Additionally, Diamond has garnered Preseason Player of the Year honors for 2003 from a number of publications, making her not only the best goalie in the nation but possibly the best player as well.
Though graduated defenders Carrie Foster and Cara Coscarelli will be sorely missed this year, Amherst has many newcomers who will look to take the place of last year’s First-Team Brine/IWLCA Div. III New England Regional All-Americans.
Filling in the gaps on defense will be seniors Molly O’Connor and BriAnne Watkins who both spent last spring abroad. Senior Annie Jamieson and sophomores Jenna Swan-Gross, Rachel Tranter and Chapin Giordano will also help out defensively. Additionally, first-year defenders Sara Coleman, Margo Nathan and Caitie Parker will add needed depth to this year’s defensive squad.
The offense returns every key player from 2002. Senior attacker Abby Ouimet will look to improve on last season, in which she received various accolades including first-team IWLCA, U.S. Lacrosse Div. III All-American and first-team Brine/IWLCA Div. III New England Regional All-American. Ouimet will be joined in the offensive end by returning junior Liz Martin, who will look to lead the midfield for the Jeffs. Martin is coming off an impressive 2002 campaign where she was a first-team All-NESCAC selection and a Second-Team IWLCA/U.S. Lacrosse Div. III All-American. Martin led the Jeffs in scoring with 53 goals and 46 assists, followed by Ouimet, who scored 41 times.
Additionally, senior tri-captain Erin Beaumont, along with classmates Mary Kate Allen and Laura Schifter will add seasoned veterans to Amherst’s formidable front line attack. In 2002, Beaumont scored 18 goals and had 14 assists, while Allen scored 25 times and had 16 assists. Schifter had eight goals and 23 assists.
Junior Allison Aldrich will also add needed depth to the midfield for Amherst this season. As a sophomore, Aldrich was a second-team Brine/IWLCA Div. III New England Regional All-American, and a second-team All-NESCAC selection. She scored 27 goals and had eight assists while helping out on defense.
This balance of seasoned veterans and eager newcomers gives the Jeffs confidence despite the weight of high preseason expectations. “We have a lot of talent this year from the freshmen to the seniors,” said Jamieson.
The Jeffs begin their 2003 campaign with two difficult neutral-site games over their spring break trip. On Saturday, the women will take on William Smith College before challenging St. Lawrence University on March 19. Both games will be played in Panama City, Fla. Amherst’s opening match might in fact prove to be one of their most difficult of the season since William Smith is currently ranked fourth nationally in the preseason polls. Additionally, William Smith will have already spent a week in Florida, while Amherst will come into the game just 12 hours off of the plane.
After returning from the spring break games, Amherst will host a strong NESCAC slate. Colby, Bates and Trinity Colleges will come to Amherst before the Jeffs take to the road on April 5 to battle the Middlebury College Panthers. This match might in be Amherst’s biggest regular-season test; Middlebury is the defending national champion and is ranked first in the preseason polls. However, the Jeffs overlook no opponent. “Every single team in the NESCAC is a strong team,” said Diamond. “Ranked or unranked … [they are] all very capable and dangerous teams.”
Six of the top 20 teams in the preseason polls play in the NESCAC, and six of Amherst’s regular season games are against ranked foes. Unlike last season, the Jeffs will be unable to sneak up on any of their opponents due to the extensive preseason buzz. If Amherst hopes to go far in the conference and national tournaments, the women must be able to fend off the many challengers who will look to dethrone them from their lofty preseason ranking.
However, the Jeffs will take it game by game from the beginning. “We hope Saturday goes well,” said Diamond, “and we’ll see how things go from there. If things largely go as expected, Amherst has nothing to worry about.