In 2014, the Amherst College women's volleyball team will look to utilize its depth and experience en route to making a 16th consecutive appearance in the NESCAC postseason.
The Jeffs return all but one player from its 2013 squad which finished 20-8 overall, a dramatic improvement from the 14-9 mark in 2012. A young squad with no seniors, last season's team posted a 7-3 record in NESCAC play and earned the third seed in the league's postseason tournament. Amherst dispatched Middlebury, 3-1 in the quarterfinals before falling to Bowdoin, 3-2 in the tournament semifinals falling just two points shy of reaching the NESCAC final.
"We were very young last year," head coach Sue Everden stated. "I think that experience and having played through some of that youngness will definitely show in terms of what we're capable of doing this year over the long haul."
The 2013 campaign was highlighted by a terrific 8-1 mark at LeFrak Gym, and the Jeffs orchestrated an impressive nine-match winning streak that featured five conference victories. The season also saw Everden reach the 600-win milestone following a 3-0 sweep of Rivier during the season-opening Springfield Invitational. The highly decorated coach has now amassed an overall record of 618-246 since her first season in 1986.
This year's edition of the Purple & White features many of the same names, nine to be exact. With a year of experience to build on, Amherst rolls out a senior, four juniors and four sophomores to go along with five first-years. The additional depth will allow the Jeffs to be fresher and will enable the squad to try different combinations and be more creative on a match-by-match basis.
"We have an awesome veteran core of players," said Everden. "Added to that awesome core is a fabulous group of first-years and I think that combination will bode very well for us this year."
MEET THE TEAM
In 2014, Amherst will rely on the veteran leadership of captains Lauren Antion '15 andNicole Carter '16. Last year, Lauren Antion led the team in total blocks (70) and was third on the team in kills with 206. Carter directed the Jeffs' offense with 823 assists, averaging 8.66 helpers per set, led the team in service aces with 39, and was second on the team in digs with 251.
"They take the leadership role with such a wonderful degree of accountability, and I think they epitomize the healthy balance that exists on the team," Everden explained. "Everyone feeds off their enthusiasm and their work ethic and I think they have an innate sense of being able to reach their teammates in different ways that complement each other."
Kate Bres '17 also saw some action at the setter position, dishing out 114 helpers in her first collegiate season in addition to serving up 15 aces and notching 167 digs.
As a first-year, Maggie Danner received First Team All-NESCAC accolades as she totaled a team-high 315 kills on the season and notched double-digit numbers in 18 of the team's 28 matches, including 17 of the last 19 as Amherst went 14-5 down the stretch. Danner averaged 3.32 kills per set which was first for the Jeffs and sixth among the NESCAC leaders. She also totaled 225 digs (2.37 per frame).
Nicole Gould '17 contributed 286 kills for the Jeffs last season, ranking second on the team in the category and chipped in 109 digs in her debut season. Samantha Newby '16 was also a key contributor in both the offensive and defensive efforts for Amherst last season as she totaled 153 kills and finished second on the team in blocks with 67.
Defensive specialist Katie Warshaw '16 averaged 4.82 digs per set and registered a team-best 458 digs – both team and league highs – in addition to serving up 35 aces in 2013. Kelci Keeno '17 was one of four Amherst players to tally 200 or more digs last season (241) and finished her debut season with 28 service aces.
Making her return to the hardwood in 2014 is Liz Ahern '16 who spent her sophomore season sidelined with an injury. In 2012, Ahern garnered second team all-conference honors following a team-high 264-kill season in which she added 36 total blocks and 88 digs. Ahern ranked third in the NESCAC in kills and sixth in hitting percentage (.273).
In 2014, depth will play an integral role in the consistency and success of the team. Five first-years have joined the squad this season including defensive specialist Kate Antion, middle blockers Jennifer Mackinnon-Kremsand Annika Reczek, opposite hitter Marialexa Natsis and outside hitter Asha Walker. This talented group of newcomers which has already begun to integrate with the veterans, will look to provide an added level of excitement and determination that could help Amherst reach the next level.
"We have a lot of depth in every position," Everden continued. "With a first-year squad that's five strong, I think there comes a youthful enthusiasm and a kind of doggedness that makes a group of veterans work harder."
Jackie Buechler '17 has also rejoined the squad as team manager and statistician in 2014.
"She is still highly involved with the program and will be for the next couple of years," Everden said of Buechler. "I couldn't be happier."
For the second time in as many years, the Jeffs begin their campaign at the Springfield Invitational with this season's slate beginning on Sept. 5. Amherst continues on the road at the Johnson & Wales Invitational (Sept. 12-13) and then at Trinity and Wesleyan before hosting archrival Williams in its 2014 home opener on Sept. 26.
A tri-match at Clark with Babson follows before Middlebury and Hamilton enter LeFrak Gym for NESCAC bouts. Amherst returns to the road at Westfield State as the Jeffs play four of their next five away from home including three straight league matchups with Bates, Conn. College and Tufts during the span. The Purple & White then host the two-day Hall of Fame Tournament on Oct. 24-25 and cap the regular season by hosting Bowdoin and Colby.