The Firedogs have resurrected their season by winning five out of their last six games, including three NESCAC matchup, to move to 11-5 overall.
The Jeffs’ hot streak began on Friday, Oct. 5, when the squad, which stood at just 6-4, hosted Wesleyan. Looking to establish some positive momentum, the Firedogs did more than just that: they came up with their second sweep of a conference opponent in 2012. As has been the case all year long, first-years Nicole Carter and Lizzie Ahern were impressive in the win, with Carter registering 27 assists and Ahern contributing 15 kills, good for a .520 attack rate. None of the three sets was particularly close, and the Amherst team cruised against the Cardinals, who dropped to 0-6 in NESCAC play.
Despite their strong play against Wesleyan, the Firedogs would experience an immediate setback. Their next opponent, Conn. College, came in at 13-2 overall and 5-2 in conference play. On paper, the Camels appeared to be the superior team, but the Jeffs jumped out to an early lead, taking the first two sets 25-21 and 25-22. With an upset within their grasp, however, the Jeffs inexplicably lost control of the match. They fell in relatively close fashion (25-20) in the third set before going down in the fourth and fifth sets as well, completing a stunning comeback for the Camels. The heartbreaking loss overshadowed the continued dominance of Carter, who racked up 45 assists against the Camels, and Ahern, as well as a strong effort by Lauren Antion ’15, who added 11 kills of her own. The Camels also received some outstanding individual performances in the come-from-behind victory: co-captain Rachel Schroff tallied 26 kills and 20 digs, while fellow senior Katie Ketcham totaled 52 assists.
Understandably deflated, the Jeffs had just three days to regroup before traveling to Westfield State for a non-league test. Again, the Jeffs won the first set, but they lost the second by just two points (26-24). This time, however, the Firedogs would not be denied: they took the final two sets in convincing fashion to close out a 3-1 victory. In the match, Ahern’s attack rate was a stellar .548, while Emily Waterhouse also ’13 made her presence felt with a team-high 37 total attacks.
On Friday, October 12, the Jeffs returned to league play on their home floor (and on the team’s Senior Night), looking to bring their A-game against Middlebury. The Firedogs would need all of that A-game in what nearly became a repeat of the stunner against Connecticut. After taking the first two sets, the Amherst squad appeared to be in good shape, but — as was all too familiar to the Jeffs — the Panthers came storming back, winning the third set overwhemingly (25-13) and stealing the fourth set as well (25-22). This time, however, the Amherst squad shut the door, edging the surging Panthers 15-12 in the final set.
Amazingly, that final set was a perfect microcosm of the match itself: the Jeffs jumped out to a 12-4 lead, but Middlebury went on an 8-2 run before Kristin Keeno ’13 — one of the four seniors being honored — made a spectacular diving save on a seemingly sure Panthers’ point. Her hit glanced off the top of the net and landed on the Middlebury side, giving the Jeffs the match and a much-needed victory over the league’s second-place team.
For perhaps the first time all season, the Firedogs put all the pieces together as they Williams the following day (Oct. 13). The Ephs stood at the top of the NESCAC standings, but the Jeffs would not be intimidated. This time, it took the Amherst squad just four sets to close out their opponent, including a 25-18 drubbing in the decisive frame. Though they won the first set, Williams seemed to have no answer for the Jeffs who, by this point, were firing on all cylinders. Ahern and Waterhouse each registered 13 kills, while Carter was again the anchor with 42 assists. The player of the game, however, was Sammy Newby ’16, who contributed a career-high 13 kills in the victory.
Finally, in a tune-up match against Simmons on Tuesday, Oct. 16, the Jeffs cruised to a 3-0 sweep, their fourth consecutive win and their eleventh overall.
Riding more momentum than they’ve felt in weeks, the Jeffs will look to keep their winning ways alive. The Firedogs will have a weekend off from NESCAC play, instead facing Springfield and Wellesley in the Hall of Fame Classic tournament. The following weekend, road games at Colby and Bates loom on the schedule. Despite their up-and-down season, however, the Jeffs have proven that they can’t be counted out of any game.