Firedogs Hope to Contend Despite Youth, Key Injury
Issue   |   Wed, 09/04/2013 - 10:36

Although few were fully satisfied with the Firedogs’ 14-9 finish in 2012, particularly after an impressive string of 20-win seasons under illustrious coach Sue Everden, there were plenty of bright spots last fall for the Lady Jeffs.

For starters, seniors such as Emily Waterhouse ’13 and Kristin Keeno ’13 ended their individual careers on a strong note; Keeno led the team in digs, while Waterhouse’s total of 188 kills was second on the squad.

Secondly, the Lady Jeffs discovered a pool of outstanding first-year talent, particularly the tandem of Lizzie Ahern ’16 and Nicole Carter ’16, two California natives who left the West Coast ready to make an immediate impact. That they certainly did: Ahern was by far the team leader in kills, while Carter garnered an impressive 699 assists. By season’s end, both had become among the best in the league at their positions.

Their spark helped the squad win its first three matches of 2012, although the team then dropped back-to-back road decisions to Bowdoin and Tufts. From there, however, the Firedogs were quite consistent, going 7-1 in NESCAC play the rest of the way. Their season did come to a quicker end than they would have liked, in the form of a 3-0 loss to Williams on their home floor in the first round of the NESCAC playoffs.

Hoping to get over the hurdle in 2013, the Amherst squad was dealt a devastating blow in the offseason. Ahern, arguably the team’s MVP last fall, received surgery for a torn labrum and will miss most of the year. In order to overcome the loss, the Firedogs may need Carter, at times, to be capable of carrying the team. Still, she will have help in the form of a handful of capable returners. Sammy Newby ’16 and co-captain Lauren Antion ’15 both saw significant playing time last year, while co-captain Kellyn LaCour-Conant ’15 looks to have a breakout junior season. Katie Warshaw ’16, another returner, looks to be a significant contributor on defense. Among the first-years joining the team will be Keeno’s sister, Kelci Keeno ’17. Their efforts may indeed make or break this season for a young but highly spirited squad.

The Lady Jeffs fell to Bowdoin early in 2012, so their home contest on Sept. 20 against the Polar Bears will be highly anticipated. Of course, Williams ended the Firedogs’ season last year, so the squad will play perhaps its biggest regular-season game when it travels to Williamstown on Sept. 26. Other home matches to catch include tilts against Tufts (Oct. 5) and Colby (Oct. 18).

One thing is for sure: the enthusiasm of Antion and her teammates is palpable.

“We have a very large freshman class of incredibly talented players who are expected to fill any holes on the court, and all of the returning players trained harder than ever this off-season. I can’t wait for our first practice,” Antion said.