AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College volleyball team upset MIT this past Thursday to advance to the quarterfinal round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time in program history. The Lord Jeffs defeated the Engineers 3-1 to pick up their 30th win of the year, which ties the school record for most victories in a season. Amherst will take on national powerhouse Juniata College Thursday, Nov. 15 at Illinois Wesleyan University.
Amherst had qualified for the NCAA Tournament four times prior to 2007 but had never advanced beyond the regional portion of the bracket. The Jeffs earned the No. 3 seed in the New England region in 1998 and advanced to the second round with a 3-2 win over No. 6 MIT, but they fell to No. 2 Williams College in the second round, 3-1. Amherst received a first-round bye the following year before defeating Western Connecticut State University, but had its tournament run end with a 3-0 loss to Wellesley College.
The Jeffs again received a bye in 2000 as the No. 2 seed, but they were upset by No. 3 Bates College in the second round, 3-2. Amherst did not return to the NCAA Tournament until last year, as the 2006 Lord Jeffs received an automatic bid by storming through the NESCAC Championship Tournament to take home the program's third conference title. Amherst cruised by Emmanuel College in the opening round but struggled with MIT the next day, as the Engineers picked up the win in four games.
After failing to take home the program's fourth conference crown this year, it looked as though Amherst would not even be invited to the national tournament despite its impressive 27-4 mark. Not only did the Jeffs earn a No. 3 seed in the New England region, but they got a chance to avenge their 3-2 loss to NESCAC champion Williams by taking on the No. 2 Ephs in the second round. The rivals were involved in yet another marathon, but it was Amherst that advanced to take on top-seeded MIT. The Jeffs' momentum carried them to victory once again, as they earned a 3-1 win to move on the national quarterfinals for the first time in program history.
Standing in the way of Amherst's run toward a national title is defending national champion Juniata College. The Eagles won their first national title in 2004 and capped off an outstanding 2006 season with their second championship, finishing with a record of 41-1. Juniata enters its match against Amherst with a 36-4 mark and has posted a 14-1 record in its last 15 matches, with its only loss coming at the hands of unbeaten Wittenberg College. The Eagles have won 31 matches by a 3-0 margin and have dropped only 19 games all season.
Amherst can not be taken lightly, however, as the Jeffs have won 10 of their last 11 contests and have won 21 matches by a 3-0 margin, dropping only 24 games along the way. Regardless of the outcome, the experience against such a national powerhouse will be incredibly beneficial to an Amherst team full of young stars.
Thursday's match will feature two of the finest coaches in Division III, as Juniata head coach Larry Bock is one of only three people across Divisions I, II and III to record at least 1,000 career victories and is the only Division III coach to do so. Amherst head coach Sue Everden has never led a team to a sub-.500 record in her 22 years, having recorded at least 20 wins 16 times and at least 30 wins twice. Everden is just three wins shy of becoming the 17th Division III coach to join the 500-wins club (497-201).
NCAA New England Regional Championship (All Matches Played at MIT)
Thursday, Nov. 8
No. 4 Wellesley 3 vs. No. 5 Endicott 0
No. 3 Amherst 3 vs. No. 6 Rivier 0
No. 2 Williams 3 vs. No. 7 ECSU 0
No. 1 MIT 3 vs. No. 8 Maine Maritime 0
Friday, Nov. 9
No. 2 Williams 2, No. 3 Amherst 3
No. 1 MIT 3, No. 4 Wellesley 2
Saturday, Nov. 10
No. 1 MIT 1, No. 3 Amherst 3
NCAA Quarterfinal Round (All Matches Played at Illinois Wesleyan University - All Times Listed as Eastern Standard)
Thursday, Nov. 15
Match 1: Wisconsin-Whitewater vs. Puget Sound (WA) – 2 p.m.
Match 2: Amherst vs. Juniata (PA) – 4:30 p.m.
Match 3: Washington U. (MO) vs. Emory (GA) – 7 p.m.
Match 4: Wittenberg (OH) vs. Stevens Institute of Technology (NJ) – 9:30 p.m.
Friday, Nov. 16 (National Semifinals)
Winner of Match 1 vs. Winner of Match 2 (5:30 p.m.)
Winner of Match 3 vs. Winner of Match 4 (8 p.m.)
Saturday, Nov. 17 (National Championship Match)
Semifinal Winners – 8 p.m.