After Near Miss, Women’s Soccer Back in Title Hunt
Issue   |   Wed, 09/04/2013 - 10:35
Niahlah Hope ’15 Public Affairs Office
Senior midfielder Kate Sisk hopes to lead the Lady Jeffs to a title.

A 20-win season such as Coach Jen Hughes produced in 2011 is certainly hard to top, but the Lady Jeffs put together almost as strong an effort in 2012, finishing 13-2-2 and making the NCAA tournament.

What was the Lady Jeffs’ formula for success? To be sure, the team had its share of starpower. Forward Amanda Brisco ’14, for example, tied for the NESCAC lead with 22 total points and posted top-five marks with eight goals and six assists.

Similarly, Kathryn Nathan ’13, the 2011 NESCAC co-player of the year, continued her dominance last fall and earned a First Team All- NESCAC selection.

Just as impressive for the Lady Jeffs, however, were the unsung heroes on the defensive side of play; Sandy Shepherd ’13 and Maya Jackson-Gibson ’15 both earned All-NESCAC selections, the latter being notable as one of only three underclasswomen to receive the honor.

With its core group in place, the Lady Jeffs won six of their first seven before being dealt their first loss, a gut-wrenching, 3-2 home defeat at the hands of Williams. That was the Jeffs’ final loss in the regular season, and it was ultimately a 3-3 tie with Bowdoin that knocked them out of the NESCAC playoffs. A deep run into the NCAA Tournament was not to be, as the Lady Jeffs suffered a 3-1 loss to Lasell that ended their season.

Last fall, it was the Lady Jeffs’ strong start that put them in a position for late-season success, and the squad hopes once again to cruise early. This year, however, the team won’t exactly have the luxury of easing into the season. Middlebury and Bowdoin, who battled the Jeffs to draws last year, await in two of the team’s first three games (Sept. 7 and Sept. 14, both home).

Coach Hughes is well aware of the nature of the early portion of her team’s schedule, saying, “We will continue to focus on our process [this preseason] and hope the results fall into place. Right now we are singularly focused on getting ready for our opening game against Middlebury.”

Then, a tilt in Williamstown looms large as the team’s fifth game (Sept. 21). This matchup should take the traditional rivalry to another level, as the Ephs handed the Lady Jeffs one of their two losses last season. If anything, the team may enjoy some less nail-biting wins in the second half of the season.

As is usually the case when an Amherst team loses talented seniors, the rising seniors are more than capable of filling the void. The Jeffs have nine returning strikers, six of whom have starting experience. Brisco, along with classmates Chloe McKenzie and Kate Sisk, will be critical in leadership roles. Additionally, sophomore goalkeeper Holly Burwick has proven herself, and Jackson-Gibson should remain the anchor on defense.

“With the graduation of two of our four starting backs from last year, we will need to shore up our back line and will look to our reserves and first-years to make immediate contributions,” Hughes said.

If the Lady Jeffs keep playing as a cohesive unit, hardware will once again be a distinct possibility.

“In addition to our talent, I’m most excited about the positive energy and strong leadership. I’m very much looking forward to the season,” Hughes said.