It's been another exciting season for Amherst Athletics as teams finished with a combined 70-27-4 record, three Little III titles and four nationally ranked teams. Behind experienced and determined athletes, every team kicked off the season with a string of wins before giving up their first losses. Though this is the final fall for the talented players in the Class of '97, this fall's teams have built upon the success of last year and looks forward to continuing their traditions of excellence in the future.
Lord Jeff football jumped out to its best start since the undefeated season of 1984 as they posted a 7-0 record going into the season finale. The team led the league both offensively and defensively all season, finishing as the No. 19 Division III team in the nation. An impenetrable defense behind All-American tackle Alex Bernstein '97 vaulted the Jeffs to the top of the NESCAC as the only team in the league to allow fewer than 2,000 yards for the season (1,653) and led the country by allowing only 67 points in eight games (8.4 ppg).
Early in the season, the offense again had to do without Tri-Captain Josh Mason '97, whose reinjured leg limited his rushing ability. But this might have been a blessing in disguise, as Mason's alterned role forced the rest of the offense to step up to their potential. By the end of the season, Bob DiSabato '99 emerged as the leading running back for '97 with seven touchdowns to his credit.
As five offensive backs combined for almost 200 yards rushing per game, quarterback Rich Willard '98 looked to five handy receivers for the majority of his 1,673 yards this season. Leading the league with 60.1% accuracy, Willard was rated as the 12th best quarterback in the nation and tops in New England.
Willard was the key in the Jeffs' first victory over Trinity in eight years after a battle of the unbeatens for 7-0 bragging rights. Throwing a career high 349 yards, Willard aimed three of his 13 completions at scoring receivers. The quarterback was responsible for 15 of the team's 27 touchdowns, including running four into the endzone himself.
But the Jeffs would not have brought a victory home from Hartford had it not been for the keen defense of Todd Nichols '99. The free safety claimed his third, fourth and fifth interceptions of the season, just two weeks after nabbing a Colby pass at the Mule 39. Taking off for the endzone, Nichols posted his first collegiate touchdown in the team's first win over Colby in nine years.
Overcoming the phantoms of both Colby and Trinity, the Jeffs needed to avenge only one more loss, that against Williams on live television before a packed Homecoming crowd and celebration of the Amherst College Campaign Kickoff. An 11-yard Willard run gave Amherst its first lead over the Ephs in the '90's before Williams' second touchdown. The Jeffs regained a precarious lead on two field goals by David Bobruff '97 to bring the contest to 13-12 late in the fourth quarter. But Williams mounted a 98-yard drive toward the Amherst endzone and five minutes later, the final whistle sounded to a disappointing ninth loss to the Ephs in ten years,
While the bitter taste of coming so close to defeating Williams may taint the memories of this fall's football, the Jeffs remained undefeated until the final minute of the season. In just four short years, Head Coach Jack Siedlecki turned an 0-8 program into a national contender.
But the success of the fall was not limited to the football team. Women's soccer and field hockey finished with their best seasons ever with appearances in the NCAA Tournament and among the top-10 teams in the nation. Women's soccer got off to a slow start with a 0-0 overtime tie to Trinity before plowing through their opponents, including four wins by at least a five-goal margin. The Jeffs pushed their record to 4-0-1 with a one-goal win at No. 1 ranked Bowdoin to take over the top-spot in the New England polls for a week. Tying Williams at 1-1 and scoring a late-game winner against Wesleyan earned women's soccer a piece of the Little III title for the third year in a row.
The duo of Sarah Fabian '98 in goal and Shaunette Richards '98 in the midfield proved to be a key combo to propel the Jeffs into their third consecutive NCAA Tournament. Fabian allowed only seven goals during the regular season and three to hard-shooting NCAA teams, while Richards finished her junior season with eight goals and four assists as the team's leading scorer.
Traveling to Williams for the Sweet Sixteen, the Jeffs exacted revenge upon Richard Stockton, who had claimed last year's Final Four spot from Amherst with post-overtime penalty kicks. A 1-0 win over Bates vaulted Amherst into the first Final Four in school history. A telephone call that night informed the Jeffs that their own Hitchcock Field would be the site of the 1996 National Championship before a rowdy crowd of Amherst fans.
Richards scored from the top of the box to give Amherst an early lead over UCSD, the defending national champions, and handing the Tritons only their second deficit of the season. However, UCSD's 11-year experience in the tournament mustered up two goals against the Jeffs en route to the national title while the Jeffs finished as the No. 3 team in the nation.
While the women's soccer team has enjoyed national-level success for a several years, the field hockey team got its first taste of the NCAA tournament this year with a young but talented team. Boasting a 12-2 regular season record, the Jeffs jumped out to a 6-0 start before suffering its first loss to Middlebury. But a revitalized offense and reinforced defense barrelled through the rest of the season, including winning three close overtime matches.
Clark had been the first team to push the Jeffs into extra periods before a five-day ordeal against Wesleyan. The game that would decide the Little III crown was postponed in hurricane-conditions after regulation, to be continued five days later in overtime. Thirty-minutes of sudden death had expired and the scoreboard still read 0-0 to push the game into penalty strokes. Alie Stechenberg '00, Jen Corso '99 and Irene Permut '99 all eluded the goalie on their first attempts, but three Cardinal strokes again tied the match. Corso and Marnie Huffman-Green '99 forged a 2-0 lead as the fourth Cardinal stepped to the line for the second round of strokes. But, as she had been accustomed all season, keeper Jess Rich '99 pounced on the shot for her seventh shutout of the season and the Little III title.
Rich posted nine shutouts for the season to better her two-year career total to 14. She allowed only 10 goals all season, four of which came in a first round-NCAA loss to William Smith. She was the key factor in an overtime victory over Trinity, the No. 1 ranked team in the region. Tyra Gettleman '00 found the cage ten minutes into extra-time to post Amherst field hockey's first-ever victory over the Bantams.
Women's tennis also continued the tradition of excellence they have established over the last six years by finishing as the top-ranked team in New England and No. 5 team in the nation. Posting a 10-0 fall season record, the Jeffs claimed sole possession of First Place at the New England Women's Intercollegiate Division III Tennis Tournament after sharing top-honors with Williams last year. The last six New Englands titles have been split between the two rivals.
Eight of the nine entries in the tournament garnered No. 1 seeds, as Ting Yu '97, Neely Steinberg '99 and Sam Toerge '99 won titles in their respective flights. The 14th-ranked doubles team in the east of Pam Diamond '99 and Steinberg combined to take the No. 2 title to boast a perfect 13-0 record for the season. The 10-3 team of Laura Keith '99 and Yu finished No. 3 in the east and eighth in the nation while Keith claimed the 12th spot in the region on her own. Playing No. 1 singles, fifth-ranked Diamond was the 14th best player in the country.
Susanne Santola '97 finished her senior fall with a 11-1 singles record, with her only loss occurring in the finals of the tournament. Through the course of the season, women's tennis claimed its second straight Little III title with an 8-1 win over Wesleyan and a 9-0 sweep of Williams.
Men's tennis enjoyed much of the same success in their abridged fall season. Behind Ed Rosenfeld '97 and Adam Wolf '98 winning their singles flights, Amherst came home from Vassar with the ECAC Championship to their credit.
However, men's soccer struggled through a disappointing season their 1995 NCAA Sweet Sixteen appearance, their second in three years. Finishing with a 6-7-1 record, the Jeffs made a name for themselves as an upset team of some of the top teams in New England mid-season. For the second year in a row, the Jeffs knocked Wheaton from their No. 2 ranking, this time with a 3-1 overtime win behind the late-game scoring of Stephen Carr '97 and Matt Diggs '99. Within a week, they had also taken out No. 5 Babson on a Tim Christian '98 penalty kick.
While men's soccer stepped up to the big competitors, the smaller ones often fell by the wayside in close losses. The Jeffs had six games decided by a single goal, though only two were in their favor. In an always exciting rivalry with No. 7 Tufts, the Jeffs tied the game at 1-1 just 39 seconds after the Jumbos took the lead early in the second half. With 30 minutes to play, Tufts came back 11 seconds after a floater into the net by Gary Kegel '00 to send the match into overtime, where the Jumbos turned on the defense to hold off the equalizer and take the match 3-2. Two weeks later, the Jeffs outplayed Williams in a wet Homecoming matchup, but luck lay with the Ephs that day, as they snuck a single goal past the Jeffs to deny them a win over Williams in 14 years.
Women's volleyball had posted an upset of Williams early in the season, but they split matches with Williams and Wesleyan at Little IIIs to fall just short of the crown. But finishing the season with a 23-14 record merited the No. 6 seed in the ECAC Tournament. The Jeffs fought through the fifth set before falling 15-13 in the first round to SUNY-Binghamton.
The success of the regular season came behind the offense of the Three B's: Laura Becvar '97, Adrienne Beshong '98 and Nell Berens '99. A formidable trio, the three led the team in kills and blocks to win all eight of their home matches this season. The Jeffs swept the Amherst Invitational and the Quad Tourney on the way to their fourth place finish in the NESCAC Tournament. Setter Liz Delsman '98 earned All-Tournament honors, while Becvar and setter Kristin Edgar '99 were named All-Conference.
The cross country team showed immense improvement from last season, as the men's team became one of the best in New England and the women's team boasted the program's largest numbers ever with a 16-woman squad. Together they opened the season with strong showings at the Amherst Invitational. Thane Hancock '97 won the men's race to propel them to a No. 2 finish, while Amanda Weiss '97 led the women with her third place finish to the No. 4 team.
Both teams took the Connecticut College Invitational by storm, coming home with two team trophies and two first place finishes. The men's team claimed eight of the top nine spots for an unprecedented 17 points for their domination of the men's field, while the women won with 47 points and their top five runners finishing inside the top 20.
Likewise, golf continued to be competitive with the best teams in the region. The men's team was led by Erik Hardenbergh '98, who gained All-League honors after a third place finish at NESCACs. Cyd Stevens '98 was again the backbone of the women's team with her eighth place finish at ECACs and as one of the better Division III players in the country.