April 29, 2001
AMHERST, Mass. - The Amherst College men's and women's lacrosse teams have both qualified for the inaugural New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) Tournament championships in their respective sports, and the two teams will both be in action in Tuesday afternoon quarterfinals. The men, who finished the regular season 5-7, 2-7 in the 10-team league, finished tied with Bates College for the final spot in the seven-team draw but held the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Bobcats, and will travel to second-seeded Wesleyan University (14-1, 8-0 NESCAC) in one of three first-round games on Tuesday. The women, who finished the regular season in dramatic fashion with an 8-7 double-overtime victory at arch-rival Williams College on Saturday, earned the second seed in the seven-team women's draw, and will host seventh-seeded Connecticut College (6-8, 3-6 NESCAC) in quarterfinal action on Hitchcock Field.
For the Amherst men, who finished their regular season with a six-game losing skid after a 5-1 start, Tuesday's quarterfinal will be a rematch of one of the more painful of the six losses, a 9-6 Cardinal triumph in Amherst on April 14. The Jeffs held a 6-4 lead midway through the third quarter of the Little III contest, but Wesleyan senior John Landay (Baltimore, MD), the leading scorer in all of Division III, scored three of his game-high four goals as part of a 5-0 Cardinal run that gave the visitors a 9-6 victory going away, their 10th of the season.
For the Jeffs to advance to the conference semifinals and finals, to be held Saturday and Sunday at top-seeded Middlebury College, they will not only need to stop Landay, but they will need to do a better job putting goals on the scoreboard. During the current slide, Amherst has averaged only seven goals per game, and the Jeffs have only hit double-figures in one of their 12 contests all season. Senior goalkeeper Corey Simonson (Brookline, MA) has kept the Jeffs in most of those 12 games, stopping well over 60 percent of the shots he's faced, and the Jeffs could give the Cardinals, currently the number-15 team in the country, their money's worth if Simonson can receive offensive support from seniors Eric Edelson (Bethesda, MD) and Rob Gibson (South Salem, NY).
Tuesday's other men's quarterfinals pit sixth-seeded Tufts University (7-7, 3-6) at third-seeded Bowdoin College (8-4, 7-2) and fifth-seeded Trinity College (6-7, 4-5) at fourth-seeded Connecticut (9-4, 6-3). Top-seeded Middlebury (11-1, 8-0), the defending NCAA champions, finished tied with Wesleyan atop the conference standings, but won a coin toss to determine the top seed.
The road to the women's semifinals, also to be held at top-seeded Middlebury, should not be quite as tough for the Amherst women's lacrosse team, who capped an incredible regular season with a heart-stopping sudden-death victory at Williams on Saturday. The Jeffs, currently the number-two team in the country, have won seven straight games since their sole loss of the season at top-ranked Middlebury, including a 13-3 victory at Conn., their quarterfinal opponent, on April 10.
Against the Camels, three different Amherst players-seniors Kristin Osborn (Morristown, NJ) and Sarah Scheessele (Pittsburgh, PA) and sophomore Erin Beaumont (Summit, NJ)-each netted hat tricks, as the Jeffs took a commanding 9-2 lead into halftime, before cruising to the 10-goal win. For the season, the Jeffs boast a 12-1 record overall, including an 8-1 conference mark, and a win on Tuesday would be the 50th career victory for the Class of 2001, which would break the all-time school record of 49 held by the Class of 2000.
Standing in the way are the Camels, who have been ranked as high as 17th in the nation at one point in the season. Conn has been led by NESCAC Rookie of the Year-candidate Catherine Clark (W. Hartford, CT), who has a team-high 24 points on 18 goals and six assists. Junior Anna Trafton (Topsham, ME) is right behind Clark with 16 goals and six assists, and senior Elayna Zachko (Saugus, MA) has been solid in goal for the Camels, stopping just under half of the shots she's faced.
Tuesday's other women's quarterfinals feature sixth-seeded Bates College (9-6, 3-6) traveling to Williamstown to battle the third-seeded Ephs (9-2, 7-2) and fifth-seeded Tufts University at fourth-seeded Colby (8-4, 5-4). With three of the top four teams in the latest IWLCA poll all in the NESCAC (Middlebury, Amherst and No. 4 Williams), the lone at-large bid to the 2001 NCAA Division III Tournament will likely go to a NESCAC team, along with the automatic bid that the tournament champion receives to the 16-team national field.