The Amherst squad started the season in winning fashion this past week, with a season-opening, 9-0 thrashing of Mount Holyoke followed by a 2-0 victory at Bates to open NESCAC play.
In the opening game, the seventh-ranked Jeffs had little trouble dispatching the Lyons, scoring early and often in a dominant performance that showcased the team’s ability to play an all-around tight game. Chloe McKenzie ’14 set the tone for an impressive season by netting a hat trick, with her goals coming in the seventh, 24th and 64th minutes.
Though McKenzie powered the offense, Kathryn Nathan ’13 also chipped in with a goal to go along with 3 assists. Sarah Duffy ’14, Emily Little ’13, Mel Stier ’15, Maggie Belnap ’15 and Megan Kim ’16 were Amherst’s other goal scorers.
With the Jeffs amassing a sizeable lead, Meghan Mills ’15 saw 22 minutes in goal after starting keeper Holly Burwick ’16 departed. The victory was the Jeffs’ 13th straight over the crosstown Lyons.
Coach Jen Hughes was not surprised that her team generated so many chances (they outshot Holyoke 42-5 and held a 5-0 advantage in corners), but she spoke highly of their ability to turn so many of them into scores.
“In the Mount Holyoke game, I was most impressed by our ability to finish. We have a lot of talent up top, so I was hoping we could finish and we did. It was a good confidence-builder to start the season,” Hughes said.
As expected, the Jeffs’ game against conference foe Bates proved to be somewhat more of a test but the team responded by garnering their second straight shutout.
Against the Bobcats, Nathan struck again in the 20th minute, scoring from 12 yards out to get the Jeffs on the board. Late in the game (84:32), Amanda Brisco ’14 provided some insurance when she scored her first goal of the season. Again, the Jeffs held an advantage in shots, managing 19 attempts on goal to the Bobcats’ 12. Burwick notched her second career win with six saves, and, ultimately, the Jeffs left Bates with a 2-0 record after winning by the same margin.
To be sure, Hughes is happy to win any NESCAC game, especially one on the road, but she was not completely satisfied by her team’s performance.
“The Bates game highlighted some things we need to work on as we move forward. I think we can improve on our ability to maintain possession out of the back, through the midfield, and up to the strikers. We need to do a better job of protecting the ball,” she said.
So far, the defense, the biggest question mark for the Jeffs coming into the season, looks strong.
Burwick has started both games for the team and has yet to allow a goal, and the squad is counting on her to be equally lights-out against tougher league opponents.
To their credit, the Jeff defenders, including Sandy Shepherd ’13 and Maya Jackson-Gibson ’15 have made sure she hasn’t had much work to do.
This weekend, the team enters the challenging portion of its schedule and will get a chance to prove that it is truly as good as it had looked so far.
The Jeffs play three games this week, first traveling to Springfield on Wednesday for a non-conference tune-up. Then, the squad returns home to face Hamilton on Saturday, Sept. 22; the Continentals are an impressive 5-0 and have already topped Trinity, Wesleyan and Conn. College in close games.
The Jeffs will get little in the way of a reprieve, as they hit the road again to face Middlebury the following day (Sept. 23). Like the Jeffs, the Panthers have yet to allow a goal so far this season, and they boast wins over Tufts and Colby. Though the latter two contests are NESCAC affairs and are ultimately more meaningful than the Springfield game, the Jeffs refuse to look past Wednesday.
“We are only looking as far ahead as our Springfield match,” Captain Kate Sisk ’14 said. “We hope to continue our solid defense, play our possession-style game, and perform well on the finishing end of things so that we come out on top at the end of the day.