Amherst women's lacrosse defended its first-ever ECAC Championship in 1997 to claim its second-straight in 1998 with a thrilling, 9-8 overtime victory over second-seeded Bowdoin. For her spectacular performance, senior tri-captain Heather Kestner (Wilmington, DE) earned both Senior All-Star and NESN Athlete of the Week honors, one week after the midfielder claimed NESCAC Player of the Week honors for leading her team to an 8-5 victory over Williams.
Kestner also led a group of four student-athletes on the New England Regional All-America Team. Kestner was named to the First Team for attack, and she is joined by junior midfielder Irene Permut (Wilmington, DE) on defense. Both are now eligible for National All-America recognition. Seniors Heidi Cline (Andover, MA) and Jess Flynn (Newton, NJ) claimed Second Team honors. 27 of the 30 women hailed from NESCAC institutions.
The team closed out the season with a four-game win-streak, kicked off by a 21-11 win over Mount Holyoke. Cline posted four goals to lead the team, who rattled off six straight early in the second half to lead by as much as 18-6 with just under 17 minutes to play. Eleven different players got on the scoreboard for the tenth best team in the country.
Amherst hosted the undefeated Ephs in the regular season finale as the archrivals traded goals throughout the first half. Sophomore Katherine Poulin (St. Davids, PA) gave Amherst a 5-4 edge at the break, and Kestner notched the game-winner with just under 23 to play as the second of her three goals. Permut added an insurance goal while rookie keeper Jess Thaxton (Wayland, MA) made 12 saves in the cage, including three in the final two minutes, to help spoil a perfect season for Williams, the second-best team in the nation. Amherst claimed its second-straight win over Williams (6-5 in the 1997 ECAC Championship) and its first Little III title since 1985.
Claiming the top-seed in the ECAC Championship, Amherst hosted Final Four weekend, kicked off by a 14-12 win over fourth-seeded Tufts. Jumping out to a 3-0 lead in the first 2:29 of the game, Amherst boasted a 6-3 advantage at the half, 14-7 with 8:38 to play. Tufts tallied five unanswered goals to close out the match, but Amherst held off the Jumbos in the final two minutes. Kestner led all scorers with five goals, including four in the second half, and an assist, while Cline added three goals and two assists. With only one win over the Jumbos in the first 13 years of the rivalry, Amherst has won the last three straight, including two ECAC semifinal wins.
Advancing to the Championship game, Amherst faced second-seeded Bowdoin, who had pushed the hosts to a 17-14 win in last year's quarterfinals. The 1998 matchup proved just as exciting as Bowdoin forced the match into overtime with a late three-goal run. The Polar Bears had scored first, and Bowdoin had rebounded from a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 lead with 4:39 before the break. Kestner tied the match for the third time with her second goal of the day with just 1:31 left in the half, and a 3-0 run by Cline and sophomore Alie Stechenberg (East Longmeadow, MA) gave Amherst a seemingly solid 7-4 lead with 13:50 left in regulation.
Bowdoin again struck first in the second OT period, but Kestner's sixth free position shot on goal tied the match at 8-8 with 1:33 to play. As the time ticked under a minute left, junior Jen Corso (Collingswood, NJ) was fouled on an inbounds play. Corso found rookie Kristin Osborn (Morristown, NJ) open on the right sideline, who led Kestner to the goalmouth. The tri-captain shoveled a shot over her right shoulder with just 44 ticks left to play for the game-winner in the 9-8 overtime thriller.
In just two games, Kestner registered nine goals and two assists to earn Tournament MVP honors. She concluded the season as the team's leading scorer and third on the career scoring list with 163 points. Cline's 129 goals in four years puts her first in goals scored in a career, while Kestner's 126 is a close second. Cline finished with 171 points and second in career scoring. As a class, Kestner, Cline, Flynn, midfielder Liz Roth (Malvern, PA) and tri-captain Erika Johnson (Newton, MA) will graduate as the winningest in Amherst women's lacrosse history with a 42-18 career record with an NCAA appearance in 1996, plus three showings in the Championship game of the ECAC Tournament with two titles.
No. Name G A P 24 Heather Kestner '98 46 10 56 15 Heidi Cline '98 44 11 55 17 Kristin Osborn '01 21 12 33 11 Alie Stechenberg '00 25 5 30 23 Jen Corso '99 21 8 29 16 Katherine Poulin '00 18 4 22 4 Irene Permut '99 6 8 14 12 Sarah Scheessele '01 9 2 11 10 Rachel Bernstein '00 8 2 10 19 Jess Flynn '98 0 2 2 3 Julia Powell '01 1 0 1 21 Katherine Haver '01 1 0 1 9 Aimee Carroll '99 0 1 1 18 Erika Johnson '98 0 1 1 20 Alexa Faigen '01 0 1 1 Amherst Totals 200 67 267 Opponent Totals 123 30 153 Goalkeeping GP W L Min Svs GA Sv% GAA 33 Sarah Evans '99 11 7 3 438 64 60 .516 8.22 32 Jess Thaxton '01 11 5 0 468 56 63 .471 8.08 Amherst Totals 15 12 3 906 120 123 .494 8.14 Opponent Totals 15 3 12 906 201 200 .501 13.25 Final Record: 12-3 Last Week: Mount Holyoke, W 21-11 Williams, W 8-5 ECAC Tournament at Amherst: No. 1 seed No. 4 Tufts, W 14-12 No. 2 Bowdoin, W 9-8 OT