Jeffs Rally For Thrilling 8-7 Sudden-Death Victory at Williams

April 28, 2001

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. - Not even a broken-down bus could stop the Amherst College women's lacrosse team on this day. After mechanical difficulties delayed the start by 20 minutes, it would be over two hours before senior Amherst attacker Sarah Scheessele (Pittsburgh, PA) fired a left-handed shot past Williams College goalkeeper Abi Jackson (Jamaica Plain, MA) 64 seconds into the first sudden-death overtime, lifting the second-ranked Jeffs to a dramatic 8-7 victory over the fourth-ranked Ephs on Saturday afternoon. With the win, Amherst (12-1, 8-1 NESCAC) locks up the second seed in next week's NESCAC Tournament, where they will host an opponent to be determined-probably seventh-seeded Connecticut College-in Tuesday's first round. 

From the opening draw, Saturday's showdown of the two top-five teams was everything it was supposed to be, with four ties and three lead changes. The Jeffs took a 1-0 lead early in the game, after Scheessele intercepted a broken Jackson clear, leading to a free-position attempt for co-captain Kristin Osborn (Morristown, NJ). Osborn rifled a shot past the sophomore Eph goalie for Amherst's only lead of the opening period. 

After the Osborn goal, the Ephs, playing before an energized home crowd on Senior Day, saw the momentum swing in their favor. First-year Williams attacker Molly Jennings (Greenwich, CT) scored 22 seconds after Osborn's tally, and added goals at 21:06 and 17:42 for a 3-1 Williams cushion. Sophomore Brooke Diamond (Longmeadow, MA) spelled starting Amherst goalie Jess Thaxton (Wayland, MA) after Jennings' third goal, and made a number of big saves in quick succession to keep the Ephs from widening their lead. 

Williams kept pressing offensively, however, and they extended the advantage to 4-1 just inside the 10-minute mark, when Jennings set up senior midfielder Michelle Kovacs (Newton Highlands, MA) from behind the Amherst goal. After the Williams goal, however, the Jeffs regained offensive momentum, thanks largely to stellar play on the defensive end from junior Cara Coscarelli (W. Hartford, CT) and senior co-captain Alison Kitay (Washington, DC). Scheessele got the Jeffs back on the scoreboard just before the eight-minute mark with a right-handed blast from the point, and sophomore Mary Kate Allen (Springfield, MA) added a goal off a perfect feed from Osborn with only 11 seconds left in the half to help the Jeffs trim the Eph lead to one. 

In the second half, Diamond continued to come up with big saves to keep the Jeffs in the game, but Jackson was just as good on the other end. The two teams combined for nine shots on goal in the first 14 minutes of the half, but the only score during that period came from Williams sophomore Stefanie Noering (Cohasset, MA), who rocketed a shot past Diamond at 24:51 for a 5-3 Eph edge. 

Despite the Williams goal, the Jeffs had the better part of play for much of the opening minutes of the half, and the visitors began to put together extended offensive possessions deep in the Williams end. Jackson came up with two early saves to keep Amherst from cutting into the lead, and Williams retaliated with a series of runs on their end, only to be foiled by Diamond. The Jeffs, though, began to take control in the midfield, and sophomore Abby Ouimet (Hatfield, MA) scored off a feed from classmate Molly O'Connor (Baltimore, MD) at 15:38 to cut the Williams lead in half. Just two minutes later, O'Connor set up another score for Amherst, slotting a perfect feed to Osborn who ripped a shot past Jackson to knot the score at five. 

Diamond, who was brilliant all afternoon for the Jeffs, was called for a check to the head at 11:59, and the resulting open-cage free-position attempt saw the Ephs take a 6-5 lead on a score from junior midfielder Heather Black (Wayland, MA). Unfettered, the Jeffs charged right back, with Allen finishing a pretty feed from first-year Allison Aldrich (Cornwall, VT) to knot the game at six with 9:18 remaining. 

Osborn won the ensuing draw, and the Jeffs took advantage, with sophomore Erin Beaumont (Summit, NJ) converting a feed from Ouimet just 37 seconds later to give Amherst its first lead since the game's early stages. Up 7-6, the Jeffs held onto the ball for the next three minutes, before a turnover in the midfield gave the ball back to the hosts with just under four minutes remaining. Diamond's 10th save of the game with three minutes left kept the Ephs from equalizing, at least for the moment, until Black broke through a crowd of Amherst defenders to knot the game at seven with 2:13 remaining. 

Williams had the ball inside the last minute of regulation, but was unable to get a shot off thanks to the stellar Amherst defense, and the game headed for overtime, Amherst's first extra-period game since the 1998 ECAC championship. 

The Jeffs dominated the first three-minute half of the first overtime period, managing three shots on goal but coming away empty. Williams reversed the situation in the second half, winning the draw and maintaining possession for most of the shortened stanza. The Ephs had a great scoring opportunity in the period's waning moments, but a shot from the point skirted high of the crossbar, and the game headed for sudden death. 

On the opening draw of the second overtime, the ball eventually found its way to Coscarelli, who survived a double-team and was fouled to give the Jeffs possession. Amherst ran a play to isolate Scheessele, and the senior ended up with the ball on the right wing, with only one defender between her and Jackson. Scheessele, who scored the game-winning goal in the waning moments of regulation the last time the two teams met on Williams' Cole Field, cut towards the Eph goal, spun towards the middle, took one step out, and fired a left-handed shot back across her body and into the top-right corner of the Williams net for the game-winner, just 1:04 into sudden-death. 

For the game, Scheessele was one of three Amherst players, along with Allen and Osborn, to score two goals, while Beaumont and Ouimet added one tally each. Diamond, who turned in one of the most outstanding performances of her career, finished with a career-best 11 saves and three goals allowed in 52 minutes of play, while Thaxton added one save in 15 minutes of action. For Williams, Jennings, who played a part in all four first-half goals, led the way with three goals and an assist, while Black was the only other player with more than one goal, finishing with a pair of scores. Jackson stopped eight Amherst shots in 67 minutes, but it was not enough in the end, as the Ephs, NCAA national finalists in 2000, drop their second straight game to fall to 9-2, 7-2 in the NESCAC. 

For Amherst (12-1, 8-1 NESCAC), the win, their seventh in a row, avenges Williams' 12-9 victory on Pratt Field last April and locks up the number-two seed in next week's inaugural NESCAC women's lacrosse tournament. With top-ranked Middlebury College (11-0, 9-0) locking up the top seed thanks to a 17-6 win over Bates College on Saturday, the Jeffs will host a first-round game on Tuesday afternoon, most likely against seventh-seeded Conn, and would advance to next weekend's semifinals at Middlebury with a win over the Camels. The Ephs, who lost to the Panthers on Wednesday, 15-7, lock up the third seed in the seven-team field, and could earn a rematch with the Jeffs next Saturday with a quarterfinal win on Tuesday, against either sixth-seeded Bates College or fifth-seeded Tufts University, depending on the geographic considerations given to the seedings.

Saturday, April 28, 2001     1     2     1st OT     2nd OT   --   F
No. 2 Amherst College (12-1, 8-1 NESCAC)   3     4     0     1   --   8
Mo. 4 Williams College (9-2, 7-2 NESCAC)   4     3     0     0   --   7

AC - Allen 2, Osborn 2, Scheessele 2, Beaumont, Ouimet; 
WC - Jennings 3, Black 2, Kovacs, Noering; 

AC - O'Connor 2, Aldrich, Osborn, Ouimet; 
WC - Jennings, Noering, Sullivan; 

AC - Jess Thaxton, 1 save (4 ga, 15:01); Brooke Diamond, 11 saves (3 ga, 52:03); 
WC - Abi Jackson, 8 saves (8 ga, 67:04); 

SHOTS: AC 20, WC 28;
FOULS: AC 17, WC 14; 
CARDS: AC 1 (Diamond, Yellow, 2-11:59);