AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College volleyball team hosted archrival Williams College Tuesday night with first place in the NESCAC standings on the line. The Ephs began the night unblemished in conference play, but left LeFrak Gymnasium with a 5-1 NESCAC record, as the Lord Jeffs pulled off a stellar comeback to earn a significant 3-2 win and jump into first place in the conference.
Amherst took a 3-2 lead in the opening game and never looked back, as Williams was able to draw even with the Jeffs throughout the game but never able to overtake them. The lead never grew to larger than five points, and the home team wound up holding on for a 30-27 victory to kick off the match.
Fans continued to pile in at the start of game two, as a home-court advantage become more and more evident. The Ephs were not fazed, however, and came out firing to take the largest lead of the day for either team, 17-6. The Jeffs responded with an impressive 14-3 run to tie the game at 20-20, highlighted by outstanding play from senior tri-captain Jaclyn DeMais (Hillsdale, NJ), and before long had a 28-21 advantage after a burst of offense that made them seem unstoppable and had Lord Jeff Nation going crazy.
The Ephs somehow managed to block out the Amherst fans and put a stop to the Jeffs' onslaught, as they stormed back to win the second game, 32-30. Williams carried its momentum into the third game and led by as many as six points early on, once again proving to be a resilient team, as the visitors took a two-games-to-one lead with their 30-27 game-three win.
Williams gained the upper hand in game four as well when Amherst called a timeout while trailing 17-10, and seemed to have the match wrapped up with a 28-24 lead, but the Jeffs rallied to pull off a stellar comeback and send the match into a fifth game. The celebration from the Amherst fans and players after the 31-29 game-four win made it seem as though the Jeffs had just won a national championship, as the teams prepared for the deciding game.
Amherst rattled off four points to begin the final game and never looked back, as DeMais pounded home the game-winning kill to lead the Jeffs to a 15-6 victory.
DeMais finished the night with a match-high 35 kills and added 27 digs, while junior Claire Holton-Basaldua (San Rafael, CA) and senior tri-captain Whitney Kouvaris (Jacksonville, FL) chipped in with 15 kills and 14 kills, respectively.
Junior Sara Heller (La Canada, CA) racked up 65 assists, first-year Rachel Yorke (Los Angeles, CA) had a match-high 28 digs, and junior Hannah Wirth (Pacific Palisades, CA) had a hand in seven of Amherst's blocks. Holton-Basaldua was also dominant at the net, as she had a hand in eight of the Jeffs' 11 blocks.
First-year Nicole Ballon-Landa and sophomore Melissa Pun led the attack for the Ephs, as they picked up 22 kills and 20 kills, respectively, with Pun adding 21 digs. First-year Emily Avis chalked up 50 assists and 18 digs, while sophomores Chelsea Kubal and Andrea Scioscia had 22 digs and 20 digs, respectively.
Amherst improves to 19-2 (6-1 NESCAC) with the win, while Williams drops to 17-6 (5-1 NESCAC). The Lord Jeffs return to action Friday to kick off the annual Hall of Fame Classic. Amherst will host Wheaton College at 5 p.m. and either Brandeis University or Colby College at 7 p.m.