Women's soccer: NESCAC champs look to repeat

And then the tide turned for Amherst. The women would not lose again in the month of September, nor would they drop a game in the NESCAC. Amherst earned the second seed in the NESCAC Tournament, where the team won two overtime, penalty-kick thrillers to advance to the finals. In the final game against Bates College, the Jeffs unloaded on the Bobcats, steamrolling them in a 6-0 win.

The victory over Bates earned Amherst its seventh straight berth in the NCAA Tournament and a number 14 ranking in the country, a position that had seemed unthinkable a few games into the season. Though Wheaton College finally ended Amherst’s run at the national title in the New England regional championship game, there is no doubt that 2003 was a successful year for the Jeffs, as they finished with a record of 12-4-4.

There is no reason why Amherst should not reprise or even surpass last year’s achievements this fall. Despite the loss of four seniors, the Jeffs return nearly all of their starters. The team’s top eight scorers are all coming back, as is the entire defensive unit.

“We have as good a shot as any other team out there to win nationals, so expectations are very high,” said senior tri-captain Leslie Curren. “Having only lost four players, we feel we are ‘the team to beat’ this season, especially with our new players. While that is a tough position to work from, we are playing with confidence and intensity.”

The competition will be out for Amherst, with a few games in particular. “It goes without saying that all our NESCAC games will be tough, but Williams, Bowdoin and Bates will especially be gunning for us after their respective losses in last year’s postseason tournament. Wheaton is our greatest out-of-league rival, having knocked us out of NCAAs last year,” said Curren.

Leading the offense once again will be senior tri-captain Ashley Harmeling. She had 19 goals and four assists in 2003 and amassed a cache of awards in the postseason: First-Team All-America, NESCAC Player of the Year, First-Team All-NESCAC and First-Team All-New England honors. In addition, her 42 points and 19 goals on the year broke two school records and led the NESCAC.

Seniors Tracy Montigny, Kate Ferris and Lee-Jay Henry, junior Kate Biblowitz and sophomore Amy Armstrong join Harmeling on offense. Montigny was the team’s second-leading scorer with seven goals and five assists on the season.

Bolstering the midfield will be Adrienne Showler ’05 and Sarah Coleman ’06, the team’s third- and fourth-leading point-scorers. Curren and first-year Lesley Pruzansky also return to the midfield, having made sizable contributions in the postseason.

Good defense was one of the Jeffs’ hallmarks last season, as the team recorded a whopping eight shutouts. Lyn Wojcik ’06, a Second-Team All-New England selection, leads the defensive unit. Classmate Margaret Chute joins her, along with Elizabeth Foley ’07.

Also key to the defense are senior co-captain Mary Sarro-Waite and classmate Shell Roberts, who return with three years of collegiate experience under their belts. Juniors Allyson Heady, Kaitlin Hill, and Jessica Hootnick also rejoin the defense.

Returning between the pipes is Jeanette “Piper” Crowell, who started all 20 games in her rookie campaign. Crowell had six solo shut-outs and was stellar in two NESCAC Tournament wins in penalty kicks. In the semifinals, she shut down three of the four Williams College shots she faced to help give Amherst the win. Crowell had 114 saves on the season and allowed a paltry 18 goals.

Joining these experienced players will be interim Head Coach Jen Hughes. Hughes comes to Amherst from Colgate University, where she served as an assistant coach after starring in the mid-’90s for the Red Raiders.

“So far Coach Hughes has been a great asset to our team,” said Curren. “She’s very accomplished as a player and shows obvious competence as our head coach. Most importantly, she’s keeping player morale high and preparing us well for the season. Also, we are thrilled to have [Assistant Coach] Andy Jones [’00] back on the coaching staff.”

“We’ve been having really high-energy practices with Coach Hughes. The entire team seems really excited to have her as a coach right now,” said Wojcik.