AMHERST, Mass. – As the 2018 Amherst College women's volleyball team works to prepare for their season opener this Friday evening, Head Coach Sue Everden sees a camaraderie among the group that encourages her as much as the squad's talent and depth.
The 18-player roster, which includes 12 returners, will take the court looking to reach the New England Small College Athletic Conference (NESCAC) tournament for the 20th consecutive season.
"We are trying to be a unit that really respect one another in the utmost of ways both on and off the court," said Everden, who is closing in on her 700th career win at Amherst. "Individual responsibility for doing the things that are going to make them achieve their potential as a student-athlete. This seems like a group that is very much directed toward that."
The team will feature 12 returners, including their top two leaders in kills per set, Emily Kolsky '20 and Daria Kim-Percy '21. Kolsky was fourth in the NESCAC with 304 kills and had a .265 hitting percentage, while Kim-Percy notched 182 kills despite just playing in 63 sets.
They will add to that sophomore transfer Jamie Daley and junior Cam Hendricks, who had 201 kills and 44 total blocks.
In the middle, Claire Dennis '20 will step into a larger role after a 2017 season in which she had 73 blocks, 157 kills and a .289 attack percentage. Helping out in the middle will be sophomore Kalley Wasson and first years Sophie Launsbach and Alex Rone, who can also play on the right side.
One of just two seniors on the squad, Hayes Honea is coming off of a 2017 CoSIDA Academic All-District selection. Honea led the team last year with 492 digs and was second on the squad with 26 service aces.
At the setter position, junior Charlotte Duran will look to build on a sophomore season in which she tallied 890 assists, good for third in the conference. Adelaide Shunk '20 put up 175 assists in her sophomore campaign, while Sierra Cox '22 can set and play as a defensive specialist.
"There is an energy toward excellence that is imperative if you are going to win championships and they've got it," said Everden of this year's squad. "It's my job to make sure it stays that way, that they get the most they can out of volleyball and that they hold each other accountable the entire season because if they do, this team can be special."
The 2017 Mammoths went 17-10 (5-5 NESCAC), winning seven straight matches in September to open the season 10-3.
October saw a trio of heartbreaking losses, with five-set defeats to Tufts, Bowdoin, Hamilton and Wellesley.
"That is mental toughness," said Everden, who acknowledged that much of last year's season rested on the edge of a knife. "There is a renewed spirit and an attitude that this group will not allow that to happen again."
Nevertheless, the Mammoths entered the NESCAC tournament as the number five seed and got revenge on Hamilton with a 3-1 victory over the #4 Continentals before their season came to an end at the hands of the #1 seed Jumbos.
The 2018 season gets underway next Friday, September 7th with a road game against Smith, followed by a pair of matches on Saturday at the Western New England Invitational.
The home opener comes on Saturday, September 15th with a tri-match against Newbury and Sage, followed by the NESCAC opener on Friday the 21st when Trinity (Conn.) comes to town.
Other home dates include a Connecticut weekend against Connecticut College (Sep. 28) and Wesleyan (Sep. 29), and visits from Hamilton (Oct. 12) and rivals Williams (Oct. 13).
The weekend of October 19th and 20th will see Amherst host their annual Hall of Fame Invitational, with ten games over two days in LeFrak Gymnasium. The weekend will also include Senior night, October 19th at 7:00 PM against Wellesley.