Depth, Versatility Keys for Amherst in 2011

After posting a 6-8 record in 2009, Amherst climbed back into the upper echelon of the NESCAC by finishing the 2010 season with an 11-5 overall mark and a No. 12 ranking in the final IWLCA national poll. The Lord Jeffs suffered an overtime loss in the conference semifinals and hoped for an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament, but upsets in the NESCAC Championship brought Amherst's season to an abrupt end.

Amherst finished the 2010 season with a 7-0 record at home and picked up big wins over Tufts, Middlebury and Trinity along the way, notably defeating the Panthers for the first time since 2003. Returning her top three points leaders from a year ago, head coach Chris Paradis notes that the 2011 team will be one of the deepest squads she has had in recent history. The team's versatility, depth and speed should allow Paradis to play different combinations of players throughout each game.  

Despite leading the NESCAC in goals-against average in 2010, Amherst will hope to play an aggressive but smarter defense on a consistent basis this year. The team will also need their attackers to gel early in the season, as they scored only 8.94 goals per game in 2010 for the lowest average in the conference. Amherst has been fueled during the preseason by missing out on the 2010 NCAA Tournament but will need to maintain focus with such a challenging schedule ahead. 

The 2010 season featured an incredibly tight race in the NESCAC standings, and this year should be much of the same with seven of the conference's teams ranked nationally in the IWLCA Week 1 Poll. Trinity came away with the top seed last year at 7-2 in conference play, while Colby, Bowdoin, Amherst and Tufts each finished at 6-3. It was Williams, however, that shocked the league by storming through the NESCAC Championship as the No. 7 seed, upsetting No. 2 Bowdoin, No. 1 Trinity and No. 3 Colby to earn the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. The Ephs would lose in the national tournament's opening round, while Trinity and Colby advanced to the quarterfinals.

Trinity (15-4 in 2010), Colby (15-5) and Williams (12-7) are ranked seventh, eighth and ninth in the IWLCA poll, followed by Tufts (11-4) at No. 12, Middlebury (8-7) at No. 15, Amherst (11-5) at No. 17 and Bowdoin (10-6) at No. 19. Colby has made four consecutive appearances in the NESCAC finals—winning the 2008 and 2009 titles—but loses both of its All-Conference First Team selections from a year ago, while Trinity should be the team to beat after returning all three of its First Team honorees. Seven-time NESCAC champion Middlebury is always dangerous, and the emerging Ephs could once again be strong thanks in part to goalkeeper Julia Schreiber '11 and midfielder Samantha Weinstein '13, the conference's reigning Player and Rookie of the Year, respectively. Looking to join the NESCAC's elite in 2011 will be Bates (7-8), Wesleyan (4-10) and Connecticut College (6-8).

Outside of the NESCAC, Amherst has added SUNY Oneonta (10-5), Drew (10-9) and Skidmore (7-10) to its schedule, also welcoming back local rival Springfield (10-8). The 2011 season will kick off Saturday, Mar. 12, when the team  hosts Tufts at noon, while their first opportunity to avenge last season's losses will come on Mar. 26 when they host Bowdoin. Amherst will get a rematch with Williams on Apr. 9 and with Colby on Apr. 16, with the regular season scheduled to close Apr. 29 at Trinity. 

Spearheading the offense will be Kelley Trapp '11 and Allie Horwitz '12, who finished with Amherst's top two point totals in 2010. One of this year's captains, Trapp had 42 points on 11 goals and 31 assists as a junior to finish second in the NESCAC in assists per game (1.94) en route to an IWLCA All-Region selection. Trapp had at least two points in 11 of 16 games a year ago, bumping her career totals to 48 goals and 55 assists. Horwitz recorded 34 points on a team-best 28 goals and six assists as a sophomore, with four of her goals serving as the game winner. She had at least one point in 15 of her 16 games and scored three goals on five occasions, including a four-goal performance in the NESCAC quarterfinals. 

Also factoring into the scoring mix will be sophomores Marta RandallWyatt Davis and Hillary Densen, who burst onto the scene as first-years in 2010. Randall finished second on the team in goals (24), notably scoring three times in the conference semifinals, while Davis and Densen combined for 32 goals and tied for the team lead in draw controls (19). Adding depth up front will be Robyn Lightner '11Julia Viani '12 and Natalie Dugan '13, who combined for 11 points last year. 

Amherst took a big hit in the midfield, but Meredith LaRose '12 and Courtney Zitin '12 are ready to assume more responsibility. LaRose started in all 16 games as a sophomore, leading the team in ground balls (37) and caused turnovers (39) to go along with 11 draw controls. LaRose finished second in the NESCAC in caused turnovers per game (2.44) and seventh in ground balls (2.31), earning her a spot on the All-Conference First Team and IWLCA All-America Third Team.

The defense will be led by senior co-captain Liz Foye and junior Claire Bennett. Foye has started in 29 of Amherst's past 30 games, finishing with 19 ground balls, 11 caused turnovers and 10 draw controls as a junior. Bennett totaled 26 ground balls, 14 caused turnovers and six draw controls as one of the team's most improved players in 2010, while Gigi Maturo '11 andMeaghan Tigh '12 will look to play more of a role on defense this season.

Lamia Harik '12 returns in goal after finishing second in the NESCAC in goals-against average (7.34) and third in save percentage (.514) in 2010. She posted a 7.00 GAA and saved 60.4 percent of shots faced in the final three games of her sophomore campaign, notably making 15 saves in the NESCAC semifinals. Joining Harik to add depth in goal is newcomer MC McClellan '14(Denver, CO/Episcopal), who is joined in the first-year class by Helen Gaffigan (Denver, CO/East), Caroline Holliday (Newark, DE/Tower Hill), Elizabeth Ludlow (Huntington, NY/Cold Spring Harbor), Annelies O'Dea (Pittsford, NY/Sutherland), Alex Philie (East Sandwich, MA/Deerfield), Katie Reynolds (Bernardsville, NJ/Bernards) and Krista Zsitvay(New Vernon, NJ/Kent Place). 

Chris Paradis begins her 17th head coaching season with a career record of 199-65 (.753), as she is looking to become only the 12th coach in Division III history to win 200 games. Back for a 12th season as Amherst's top assistant is Carol Knerr, who brings a wealth of defensive knowledge and has helped Amherst post a 143-44 (.764) record since her arrival in 2000. Joining the staff is Lindsay Bugbee (Springfield '09), who served as an assistant coach at Babson College last year. Bugbee was a four-year member of Springfield's women's soccer and lacrosse teams, twice being recognized as the college's Female Athlete of the Year.