It's been a record-breaking season, as the winter winds down and teams start looking forward to Championship play. Twenty-six records have fallen so far, and more should be broken with the talent and determination of this years' athletes, consistently outdoing their personal bests and surpassing a series of impressive milestones. Four of the ten varsity teams have brought home the coveted Little III title and, with a week until all regular seasons end, the Jeffs have compiled an 91-52-2 record with hopes for a few more wins to finish out an already successful season.
Men's basketball currently boasts a 19-3 mark as the No. 2 team in New England and No. 10 in the nation. The Jeffs went on a tear midway through the season with an 11-game win-streak. Facing six of the top-ten teams in the region during a two-week span, the Jeffs elevated their game to register a 5-1 mark against the very best in New England.
Entering the season as two-time ECAC Champions, the Jeffs rolled over early competition as Head Coach David Hixon '75 became Amherst's winningest basketball coach with his 296th win early in the season. Currently boasting a 314-169 (65.0%) career record, he earned his 300th win with a 78-point thrashing of Johnson & Wales.
In the same game, Amherst's 125 points snapped the school record for the the most Lord Jeff points as Tri-Captain Jamal Wilson '97 sank seven 3s to redefine a single-game high. Wilson outdid himself a month later in a 44-point performance against Hamilton with nine treys. Draining another seven at Trinity, Wilson set the Career 3-Point Field Goal record with 178 so far.
Junior forward John Pavelski added another six from behind the arc in his 24-points at Trinity to push him over the 1,000-point mark in his career. Wilson had already joined the 1,000 point club last December with a 20-point showing against WNEC.
But the biggest men's hoop news to date is the Jeffs' demolition of the Ephs in an 86-72 victory over the top-ranked team in the region. Down by 6 at the half, Amherst turned up the intensity in the second half to draw 21 fouls for 26 points from the line. Junior center Billy Skorupski drew six of those in a five-minute span to ignite the team towards only its second victory over the Ephs in eight years. A month later, a pair of wins over Wesleyan gave Amherst a split of the Little III title with Williams. The last time Amherst defeated Williams and topped the trivalry was in 1994 before advancing to the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
Women's basketball also has dreams of the post-season with a young and talented team. Though they had struggled early, the squad began to gel in early interterm as the Jeffs fought their way to close decisions towards a 15-8 season record.
Sophomore Katie Hersey was a consistent scoring and rebounding leader, averaging 15.2 ppg and 9.5 rpg. Joining Hersey at forward was rookie Naomi Sullivan, making a strong impact on both ends of the floor. In January, Sarah Rinaldi '98 returned from a semester abroad to contribute her post-up power and rebounding prowess to an already lethal inside game.
The forwards were critical in a pair of games in the midseason that were decided in the closing seconds of play. Facing top-ranked Clark, Hersey drove the lane for a 95-92 lead with 43.4 seconds to play before the Cougar |ained a 3 and a buzzer-beater for the win. Two days later, a deuce by Sullivan with 4.0 seconds to go against 7th ranked Springfield gave Amherst the upset.
Firing from the perimeter was Janinne Noel, who hit 44 3-pointers to break the Career 3 Point Field Goal Record of 83, set last year by Kate Cinella '96. Noel currently has 95 to her credit as a sophomore, hitting 38.6% of her long-range attempts. Defensively, senior co-captain Sam Ince set the Career Blocking record, registering 12 for the season and 74 in four years.
On the ice with a dramatic 4-4 overtime tie of defending national champion Middlebury, men's ice hockey finished off the regular season with a 14-9-1 record overall and 11-7-1 in the league. Seeded 5th in the ECAC East Tournament, the icemen hope to maintain the team's momentum to repeat with a second straight ECAC title.
Midway through the season, the Jeffs defeated both Williams and Wesleyan for their first piece of the Little III title since the 1989-90 season and since winning it outright in 1986. Sophomore Charlie Blyth, the team's leading scorer, posted three goals against Little III foes to lead the Jeffs to 5-4 and 7-3 victories, respectively.
These games bookended an eight-game win streak that propelled the pucksters to a top-10 national ranking. In a 5-3 win over North Adams, forward Mike Noone had three assists to push him past the 100-point mark in his three-year career. He is currently the team's third leading scorer with 12 goals and 20 assists for 30 points.
Against Middlebury, Wisconsin transfer Chris Addesa put on a goalie clinic by shutting out the Panthers in the first period and warding off 43 rockets fired his way. In his six games for the Jeffs, Addesa has an unblemished 5-0-1 record to his credit.
In only their second varsity season, women's ice hockey has compiled a 4-15-1 record so far. The team began the winter season with a 7-4 win over Holy Cross before falling to a series of longer-established programs at other Alliance East schools. Rather than becoming discouraged, the Jeffs worked to improve, game by game, including scoring two of only five goals that league-leading Middlebury has allowed all season. Junior tri-captain Jess Frisch continues to lead the team offensively, scoring 25 goals and 10 assists in just 20 games, including seven multi goal games.
Rookie Genevieve Furst has made an impact on the program after finishing up with her Final Four women's soccer team. Scoring the first of two Jeff goals against Bowdoin, Furst has netted ten more plus 12 assists in the next 14 games. She exploded with four goals and two assists in a 7-4 win over Trinity. The trio of Furst, Frisch and Brittany Evans '99 have teamed up for 30 of the team's 53 goals, including five where all three took a touch on the puck.
Men's squash has continued the success of last year's second place national finish, the best in the team's history. Currently ranked third in the nation, the Jeffs plowed through their early opponents with a talented line-up of nine players, all who have played at the No. 1 position at one point in their collegiate careers. Though they dropped the first of only three matches to Princeton, 7-2, the Jeffs rebounded to plow over Yale and Brown before handily bringing home their third consecutive Little III title from Williams with wins over the Ephs (8-1) and Cardinals (9-0).
Playing at the top-spot was freshman David McNeely, the No. 1 ranked player on the junior circuit before coming to Amherst. As the only Top-10 team composed of all Americans, the Jeffs had their best showing ever against Harvard in a close 5-4 loss, a decision that could have gone either way with the last two matches still in progress. Junior Evan Khan pushed Harvard's No. 5 to five games before falling 15-11 in the fifth. The next day, the Jeffs fell 6-3 to second ranked Trinity, a match which snapped No. 9 Andrew Snyder's perfect 12-0 match record.
Women's squash had a strong finish to the season, defeating Trinity for the first time in the program's history for a seventh place finish at the Howe Cup. Senior co-captain Harriet Ells was awarded the Betty Richey Award, the most prestigious in women's squash, for her overall excellence on the court. Ranked as the No. 4 player in the nation, Ells had finished third at the exclusive Betty Constable Tournament against the best women's squash players in America.
The team took home its second straight Little III title with wins over Williams and Wesleyan after rebounding from five tough losses to Ivy League powerhouses. Despite injury and illness, the Jeffs finished the season with a 12-10 record and an 8th place national ranking.
Other perennially strong teams continuing their success were Peter Solomon's men's and women's swimming teams. Named last year's New England Women's Coach of the Year, Solomon's women broke nine records during the dual meet season behind the speed and versatility of All-American Kerry Weeks. The holder of seven individual records and part of another six relay bests, Weeks won 19 of her 21 individual events while clocking 14 NCAA qualifying times in season.
Teaming up with Sondra Fein '00, Sarah Moran '00 and Sarah Lukaska '99, the quartet shattered the 400 free relay varsity best by 2 seconds with a 3:40.76 as one of four relay records this season. In the 200 medley relay, Karen Vaites '98 got off to such a fast start that she lost her goggles, but Weeks, Lukaska and Moran followed the backstroker's lead to edge out the four-year old Pratt Pool record by 0.14 seconds with a 1:53.53.
Men's swimming made some waves of their own with an 8-1 season record as the six seniors finished with a 37-2 record over four years and with a perfect 17-0 record at Pratt Pool. With every swimmer cutting down his times each meet, the Jeffs left most competitors in their wakes. Andrew Grossman '99 dominated the lanes in butterfly events, winning 9 of his 10 races and spurring a series of relay teams to victory.
The men shattered the 200 medley relay record with not one but two teams in the Jeffs' 202.5-92.5 drowning of Wesleyan. While James Ross '98, Patrick Lahey '00, Grossman and Nathan Johnson '98 touched under the old pool record, Adam Kerstein '00, Bryan Luke '97, Flori Fischetti '99 and Brian Porter '99 were already celebrating at the wall with a 1:39.02 finish, 0.84 faster than last year's best. Four events later, freshman phenom Lahey took down Luke's two year record in the 100 breast with a 1:00.47 touch.
The divers had similar success, qualifying three men and women during the dual meet season for Nationals. Co-Captain Becky Watson '97, Tamara Ball '99 and Matt Smith '99 all look forward to competing at New Englands to prepare them for their second straight appearance at the NCAA Championships in March.
Two runners on indoor track have also hope to make another splash at the NCAA Championships, as All-Americans Mario Watts '97 and Rob Mitchell '99 have qualified in the 400 and 800, 1500 and the mile, respectively. Mitchell added his name to three more school records, clocking a 3:46.19 in the 1500 and a 4:07.13 in the mile to earn him an invitation to Nationals, as well as finishing the 3000 in just 8:42.86. Mitchell and Watts are just two of eight men who have earned invitations to ECACs.
All-American Amanda Weiss '97 leads the women, who will send six to ECACs. Her 18:38.76 was enough to set the school record in the 5000, while a 2nd place finish in the triple jump by Nicole Campbell '00 earned a place in the history books with a 34' 07.25, over nine inches farther than the previous best.
Closing in on the end of the season, winter teams gear up for national-level competition. If they continue the successes of the regular season, expect more records to fall as student-athletes collect post-season accolades and honors.