Amherst Blanks Brandeis and Westfield State in Day One of Amherst Classic

AMHERST, MA – The Amherst College volleyball team hosted another installment of the Amherst Classic Friday night, with Brandeis and Johnson & Wales universities and Middlebury and Westfield State colleges making the trip once again. While Amherst was a perfect 2-0 on the night, Middlebury and Brandeis each went 1-1, with Westfield State and Johnson & Wales dropping there lone matches to finish day one at 0-1.

The crowd could immediately tell that Amherst and Brandeis were in for a long match, as game one featured several long rallies and impressive points. The Judges held their last lead at 10-9, when the Jeffs slowly began to pull away, holding six-point leads on two occasions. Brandeis battled back to pull within one point, but a five-point run led to Amherst holding its largest lead of the game at 28-21, as the Jeffs held on for the 30-23 victory in a game that featured six ties and three lead changes.

With the teams tied at 11-11 in the second game, Brandeis took and held a lead until Amherst notched the score at 21-21 and again at 22-22, allowing junior Claire Holton-Basaldua (San Rafael, CA) to give the Jeffs a 23-22 advantage with a powerful kill. It was a tight race the rest of the way, as the Judges held a 29-28 lead, but it was Amherst that held on for the 31-29 win, with junior Hannah Wirth (Pacific Palisades, CA) driving home the game-winning kill.

Amherst held as much as a nine-point lead and was in control for most of game three, as the Jeffs finished off the Judges with a 30-23 win. Senior tri-captain Jaclyn DeMais (Hillsdale, NJ) led the Amherst attack with 14 kills, while Holton-Basaldua added eight of her own. DeMais also finished with a team-high 13 digs, with first-year Rachel Yorke (Los Angeles, CA) close behind with 12. Junior Sara Heller (La Canada, CA) racked up 36 assists and five service aces for the Jeffs, senior tri-captain Julie Berkley (Fullerton, CA) chipped in with six service aces and nine digs, and Wirth had a hand in eight of the Jeffs' blocks.

Junior Lorraine Wingenbach led the Judges with 12 kills and five service aces, while first-year Abby Blasco totaled 26 assists. Junior Violette Ruggiero racked up an impressive 20 digs to lead all players, with Blasco picking up 13 of her own.

Westfield State saw its first action of the night when the Owls paired up with the Jeffs on court one in the second grouping of matches on the night. Game one remained close until Amherst rattled off seven points in a row to take a 25-17 lead, eventually earning a 30-19 win, as the Jeffs closed the opening game on a 12-2 run. The Owls led by as many as seven points during game two, but another 12-2 Amherst run allowed the Jeffs to pull ahead, 20-18. The remainder of the back-and-forth game was close and involved some extremely long rallies, but it was Amherst who came out on top, 30-28.

Trailing 9-7 in game three, the Jeffs went on yet another impressive run and found themselves leading 23-9 after scoring 16 consecutive points, eventually taking the 30-21 win to close out the match. DeMais once again led the Amherst attack with 17 kills, while fellow senior tri-captain Whitney Kouvaris (Jacksonville, FL) chipped in with 12. Heller finished with 38 assists and five service aces, while Yorke had a match-high 21 digs. Also racking up the digs were DeMais (11), Berkley (9) and Heller (8), along with first-year Erin Camp (Encino, CA), who had nine.

First-year Rachel Ryan and sophomore Alyssa Thibodeau led the Westfield attack with nine and eight kills, respectively, with senior co-captain Elissa Genereux chalking up 25 assists. Genereux added 11 digs, while fellow senior co-captain Krista Grifoni had a team-high 16.

Amherst improves to 9-0 on the season and will resume play Saturday morning when it takes on Johnson & Wales at 10 a.m. before playing Middlebury at 3 p.m. to conclude the Classic.