NORTHAMPTON, MA – The Amherst College volleyball team opened play at the 2008 Hall of Fame Classic on the road for the first time in a number of years this evening. Amherst, which has recently served as one of four hosts for the annual tournament, traveled to Smith College to face Williams College in opening round action. Amherst took a 3-1 win over the Ephs, 13-25, 25-16, 25-18, and 25-21.
Just three days ago, Amherst topped Williams on the road in NESCAC play, and with the Ephs missing the services of sophomore setter Emily Avis, Amherst looked like the favorite to take another victory this evening.
With junior outside-hitter Chelsea Kubal taking over setting duties early on, the Ephs jumped out to a surprising 11-1 lead in the opening set. After Amherst finally grabbed its second point, Eph hitter Kate Anderson put Williams back up ten points with a thunderous kill.
The Lord Jeffs responded with by ripping off nine of the next 14 points to close the gap to 16-11. The Ephs were able to weather the storm however and pushed their advantage back to 19-11, forcing Amherst to use a timeout.
The Jeffs ultimately dropped the opening set 25-13, and were unable to show signs of getting their hard-hitting offense going. After Tuesday evening's match, Eph head coach Fran Vandermeer said her team lacked intensity against their archrivals, which was surely not the case on this night.
Amherst shook off the rust after the opening set, and went swing-for-swing with the Eph attack in the second set, playing to an 8-8 tie early on. The deadlock was broken when first-year Christy Meier (San Anselmo, CA) finished a long rally with a kill.
After another back-and-forth battle, Meier finished off a set from senior quad-captain Sara Heller (La Canada, CA) with a left-handed tip, making a mid-air adjustment for the play. Moments later, Meier and sophomore Laura Hyman (Glencoe, IL) combined for a block to put Amherst up 19-15.
With five straight points off the serve of sophomore Erin camp (Santa Monica, CA), Amherst took the second set 25-16, and looked primed to carry momentum into the next set.
The Lord Jeffs did just that, opening up a 14-9 lead in set three on a kill through the arms of Eph blockers by first-year Katherine Kanoff (Pacific Palisades, CA). The lead opened up to 23-15, before Williams responded with three consecutive points on Kubal's serve.
A hard kill and a block from sophomore Jackie Berkley (Fullerton, CA) was all that Amherst need to close out the set 25-18. After grinding out two straight sets, Amherst was just 25 points away from picking up back-to-back wins over their archrivals.
Williams was the first team to double-digits in the fourth set, as a hitting error from Berkley put the Ephs up 10-9. On the ensuing point, Berkley made up for the mistake with a powerful kill on the slide. A hitting error from Eph Eleanor Levine put the Jeffs back up 11-10. Williams opened up a 16-13 lead, before a service error from Levine brought Amherst back to within two points.
Amherst tied the set 17-17 on a service ace from sophomore Rachel Yorke (Los Angeles, CA), before Williams grabbed a point on an error from Kanoff. Amherst tied the set once again at 19-all after strong front line play from Kanoff and Berkley.
A solo block from Berkley put the Jeffs up 21-19, and forced coach Vandermeer into using her final timeout. The Ephs responded with consecutive points to knot the game at 21-21. A kill from Kanoff, and an Eph ball-handling error, put Amherst back on top 23-21, before a service ace off the top of the net by Kanoff set up match point. The crucial kill came from Kanoff's new Eph-killing teammate, fellow rookie, Christy Meier.
The Lord Jeffs were led once again by Kanoff and Meier with 17 and 10 kills, respectively. In their first matches against Williams, the first-years have combined for 62 kills, while lifting Amherst to consecutive wins in the same season over their rivals for the first time since 1999. Yorke was the dig leader with 23, while Belisle kept another 10 Eph attempts alive. Heller dished out 37 assists on the night, while Hyman had four blocks to go along with five kills.
Amherst improves to 18-4 with the win, while Williams falls to 16-12. The Lord Jeffs advance to the semifinals of the Gold Bracket tomorrow where they will face the Jumbos of Tufts University at 12 p.m. The Ephs head to the consolation bracket where they will square-off with the Smith Pioneers tomorrow morning at 10 a.m.