On Jan. 8, Amherst lost to Williams in a non-conference game by a disappointing 24 points. Whether it was the adrenaline incited by a screaming crowd or the team’s own naked determination, the Jeffs played a much closer game against the rival Ephs on Saturday, losing by only 13. Led in points by first-year forward Matia Kostakis’ 19, the team put everything it had out onto the court. Williams started the game with a 12-2 spark, but Amherst fought back with a 9-0 run. Rookie forward Stephanie Reiff’s three-pointer closed out the sequence. Although the Jeffs held a 19-18 lead with less than nine minutes remaining in the half, the Ephs battled back to gain a 10-point advantage at the break. They would not trail for the rest of the game.
The second half opened like the first, as Williams dominated with a 10-3 run to increase its lead to 17. Kostakis hit four shots to pull the Jeffs back within eight. However, the Ephs were able to put the game away from the penalty stripe, hitting nine of their final 10 shots at the line. Guard Jenny Muller ’07 and co-captain guard Krissy Morin ’06 each had 12 points for the Jeffs, while first-year star Reiff hit nine and grabbed a team-high eight rebounds.
“Everyone is always really excited to play Williams, so we always really get up for them just because they’re Williams and the rivalry is pretty intense in every sport we play them in,” said Latham. “But having a good crowd there definitely helped us out as well. We definitely did some good things in that game, but at the same time, there were obviously things that we could have done a little bit better that maybe would have helped us to come out on top.”
After Friday night’s disappointing loss, the team traveled to Vermont the following afternoon to face Middlebury. The Jeffs snapped their two-game losing streak with a 58-54 victory. Rookie point guard Shaina Pollack paced Amherst with 14 points followed by Reiff with 13. The opening half began with a lot of back-and-forth play as each team led by five points at least once. However, Amherst ended up on top at the half, leading by a score of 27-24.
The Jeffs began the second half strong, as Kostakis hit two shots to give the Jeffs a 10-point advantage. Although Amherst held the lead for the remainder of the game, Middlebury headed a strong retaliation; with 1.5 minutes left, the score was tied, 52-52. Junior guard Julie Smith brought the Jeffs ahead with a layup and Pollack sealed the deal, hitting each of her four free throws in the final seconds.
Amherst doesn’t plan on doing anything different in its upcoming games against Bates College and Tufts University. “We’re going to work on really taking care of the basketball and capitalizing on every possession by limiting our turnovers,” said Latham. “We’ll also continue to focus on really cleaning up the boards and out-rebounding the teams we play and just generally playing really tough defense; basically, all of the little things.”
The Jeffs will have their hands full with the Bates Bobcats. Led by forward Olivia Zurek, Bates is currently tied with Williams for second in the NESCAC standings. Last week Zurek averaged 17 points and 16.5 rebounds to earn NESCAC Player of the Week honors. Tufts, tied for eighth in the NESCAC with only one conference win, will present less of a challenge to the Jeffs, but will nonetheless be just as important an opponent with regard to the standings. The Jeffs play host to the Bobcats at 7 p.m. on Friday and welcome the Jumbos to LeFrak Gymnasium at 3 p.m. the next day.