AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College volleyball team was involved in a thrilling NESCAC match with visiting Wesleyan University in a packed LeFrak Gymnasium. The Cardinals had defeated the Lord Jeffs in a non-conference match earlier in the season, but Amherst got its redemption by picking up a crucial 3-0 conference win. Amherst moves to 18-1 (5-0 NESCAC) on the season, while Wesleyan falls to 13-4 (4-2 NESCAC).
Both teams came out with serious intensity, as the crowd could tell it was in for a good show. The Jeffs and Cardinals did not disappoint, as the first game was fast-paced and crisp, with neither side able to pull ahead of the other. As the Amherst fans began to trickle in and fill the seats of LeFrak Gymnasium to create a raucous atmosphere, the Jeffs broke a 19-19 tie and did not relinquish their lead, as they held on for a 30-24 game-one victory.
Game two got off to a slow start due to confusion regarding Wesleyan's lineup, as a five-minute stoppage of play caused momentum from the first game to be all but lost. Play resumed with Amherst leading 2-0, but another five-minute drought occurred due to more confusion with the teams' lineups. The refs got together and sorted out the mess, as game two was finally able to resume without further interruption.
The Lord Jeff fans were glad to see play resume, as they erupted after each nice play that Amherst made. The Jeffs took an 18-15 lead after what was arguably the longest rally of the night and slowly began to pull away, but the Cardinals crept back into the game and found themselves trailing 28-24, forcing Amherst to call a timeout. The Jeffs finished off the visitors quickly after the short break, as they earned another 30-24 win to go ahead two games to none.
Wesleyan came out firing in game three, as Amherst quickly found itself huddled in a timeout trailing 6-0. The Cardinals kept the pressure on and led 13-5 at one point, but the Jeffs tallied seven consecutive points to cut their deficit to one. Before long, the teams were notched at 19-19 with the crowd growing even louder, when junior Claire Holton-Basaldua (San Rafael, CA) smashed home a kill to give her team its first lead of the game.
Amherst appeared to have the match in the bag when a block seemingly gave the Jeffs a 28-22 lead, but the call was changed to a blocking error, making the score 27-23. Wesleyan scored the next three points to cut the deficit to one, but senior tri-captain Jaclyn DeMais (Hillsdale, NJ) buried a kill to hand momentum back to her team, as the Jeffs held on for a 30-26 victory to seal the thrilling match.
DeMais finished with 14 kills and 13 digs, but it was Holton-Basaldua who stood out above all players, as she finished with 13 kills for a .565 hitting percentage and seemed to come up with a big kill whenever Amherst needed one. Junior Sara Heller (La Canada, CA) racked up 39 assists and four service aces, adding 16 digs and seven block assists in a very solid all-around performance.
Junior Lisa Drennan led the Wesleyan attack with 19 kills and added 14 digs, with Ellie Healy chalking up 34 assists and 14 digs of her own. Anna Williams had four service aces, Lesley Faulkner had a match-high 21 digs, and Becca Rodger added 10 digs.
The Lord Jeffs return to action Saturday for a 12 p.m. meeting with Connecticut College, marking another crucial NESCAC match for Amherst.