Jeffs Headed to Ohio Wesleyan for NCAA Final Four
November 12, 2001
The Jeffs, who entered the post-season as the ninth-ranked team in the NSCAA New England regional poll, have been giant-killers throughout the playoffs, winning seven consecutive elimination games to reach the Final Four. As the three-seed in the 2001 New England Small College Athletic Conference Tournament, the Jeffs unseated Tufts University, NCAA finalists in 2000 and the number-two team in the nation in the NSCAA pre-season poll, in the quarterfinals, before a decisive 5-1 victory over Middlebury College in the conference semifinals and a heart-stopping 2-1 double-overtime victory at previously-unbeaten Williams College for the conference title. Amherst, who probably would not have received an at-large bid to the 45-team NCAA Tournament field, earned the fourth-seed in the New England regional with the NESCAC's automatic bid, where they destroyed Endicott College, champions of the Commonwealth Coast Conference, 6-0 in the NCAA First Round.
In the regional semifinals, the upset-minded Jeffs handed Wheaton College of Massachusetts, who entered the game as the number-three team in the nation with a 20-0 record, a 4-1 loss, thanks to a pair of goals from first-year Tracy Montigny (East Granby, CT) and one tally each from rookie Lee-Jay Henry (Springfield, MA) and sophomore Sara Elkins (Berkeley Heights, NJ). One day later, senior tri-captain Cathy Poor (Harwich Port, MA) scored twice, including the game-winner 3:04 into the second sudden-death overtime, as Amherst captured the regional crown with a 2-1 victory over Western Connecticut State University, then the number-11 team in the nation, setting up Saturday's quarterfinal at William Smith.
Against the Herons, first-year Adrienne Showler (Ottawa, Ontario) scored off a deflected shot from Poor in the 12th minute, and the Jeff defense, anchored by junior netminder Brooke Diamond (Longmeadow, MA) and the fullback-trio of senior tri-captain Margaret Rubin (McLean, VA), first-year Mary Sarro-Waite (Far Hills, NJ) and junior Katharine Shipley (Newton, MA), combined to turn in a stellar all-around effort to hand the Herons, the number-four team in the nation in the final regular-season NSCAA poll, their first shutout of the season.
With the goal, her fourth of the season, Showler became the ninth-different player to record a game-winning goal in the Jeffs' school-record 15 wins, and the fourth different Jeff to score the clinching goal in Amherst's four NCAA Tournament games. For the season, the Jeffs boast five different players in double-figures for scoring, led by Poor, the NESCAC Player of the Year, whose 15 goals and 39 points are both Amherst school records. The senior, who became the first Amherst player ever to surpass the 100-point mark for her career in the regional final against Western Connecticut, has four goals and four assists in the NCAA Tournament, and six goals and six assists in the Jeffs' seven post-season contests.
Along with Poor, Montigny, who scored in four consecutive games early in the year and did not record another point during the regular season, has exploded in the playoffs. The first-year has tallied seven goals and five assists in Amherst's seven post-season games to bring her season totals to 11 tallies and five helpers, while Henry, who scored twice in a 69-second span in the second half of the Jeffs' 3-1 NESCAC quarterfinal win over Tufts, has six goals and four assists on the year. Sophomore midfielder Jenny Rossman (Newton, MA) has three goals and a team-high nine assists on the season, including two goals and two helpers in the NCAA Tournament, and Showler, who has stepped it up down the stretch, has four goals and three assists entering the weekend.
But the difference throughout the Jeffs' post-season run has been the defense, which has allowed only one first-half goal in Amherst's last 14 games, and none in the Jeffs' four NCAA Tournament contests. Diamond, who recorded her 23rd career shutout with seven saves in the 1-0 win over William Smith, lowered her goals-against-average to 0.76, stopping 90 percent of the shots she has faced en route to a 12-2 record in 2001, while Shipley joined Poor and tri-captain midfielder Hallison Putnam (Lexington, KY) as one of three Jeffs on the All-NESCAC team, as Amherst allowed a NESCAC-low nine goals in nine conference contests in 2001. Thanks to the Amherst defense, the Jeffs, the only team to advance out of the national quarterfinals with a road win, improved to 9-1 away from Amherst's Hitchcock Field, with a perfect 10-0 mark in games where they have led at halftime, and three wins and a tie in their four overtime games during the season. Amherst, which earned the school's first-ever Final Four berth in 1996, has been to the NCAA Tournament six times, with an all-time record of 10-3-2 in the national championship tourney.
Waiting for the Jeffs in the national semifinals is another giant with a familiar name, with Wheaton (of Illinois) boasting a 19-2 record and the number-five ranking in the final NSCAA regular-season national poll. The Thunder, champions of the College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin (CCIW), knocked off St. Thomas in the regional semifinals, before a 2-1 victory over the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, an NCAA Final Four team in 2000, in the Central Region championship game. In Saturday's second national quarterfinal, Wheaton used a goal in the 57th minute from junior All-American Sarah Mouw (Glen Ellyn, IL) to knock off the University of Scranton, 1-0, earning its first-ever trip to the NCAA Final Four.
Mouw has been the Thunder's primary scoring threat during the 2001 campaign, posting 18 goals and three assists in Wheaton's 21 games, while senior midfielder Jenny Fichera (Wayne, IL) has nine goals and five helpers, including a team-high four game-winners, for the Thunder, and senior back Padgett Crown (Clearwater, FL) has a team-high 11 assists on the season. Ten different players have double-digit point totals for Wheaton, who has also been dominant in the opening period, outscoring their 21 opponents 34-1 in the opening 45 minutes.
Defensively, first-year goalkeeper Brita Nelson (Littleton, CO) has been the primary netminder for the Thunder, stopping 86.8 percent of the shots she has faced and posting 10 shutouts in 19 starts en route to a 0.50 goals-against-average, while senior co-captain Katie Shubin (Whittier, CA) has anchored a backfield that has allowed only 11 goals in 21 games, as Wheaton has outscored its opponents 68-11 on the year.
The Thunder, who have also won nine-consecutive games since a 1-0 loss to Elmhurst College, have that loss and a 2-1 overtime loss to Ohio Wesleyan as the only blemishes on an otherwise-flawless 19-2 record, with the win over Scranton matching an all-time school record for wins in a season. Wheaton is 7-2 away from home, and a perfect 12-0 on East McCully Field in 2001, having outscored their 12 visitors 42-4. The Jeffs and the Thunder have not met previously, nor have they shared any common opponents in 2001.
Friday's second semifinal, like the Amherst/Wheaton matchup, pairs a newcomer to the NCAA Final Four with a school making its second appearance. Ohio Wesleyan, the hosts and the number-two team in the nation in the final regular season poll, is appearing in the national semifinals for the first time in school history after a hard-fought 1-0 victory over the College of New Jersey, the defending NCAA champions, in Sunday's national quarterfinals. The Battlin' Bishops (20-1), champions of the North Coast Athletic Conference (NCAC) and the Great Lakes Region, bring a 19-game winning-streak into the Final Four, after scoring the first goal surrendered by TCNJ during the entire 2001 season in Sunday's quarterfinals in Ohio, avenging a a 1-0 triple-overtime loss to TCNJ in the 2000 national quarterfinals in the process.
Rounding out the Final Four quartet are the champions of the West Region, the Willamette University Bearcats, who earned their second bid to the national semifinals with a 2-0 victory over Lynchburg College in Sunday's second quarterfinal in Salem, Oregon. The Bearcats (18-1), who also appeared in the Final Four in 1998, have a 1-0 loss to the University of Puget Sound as the only blemish on their 2001 schedule, a loss which they avenged in the Northwest Conference Championship game. Willamette's 1-0 victory over Puget Sound in that contest propelled the Bearcats to the number-six ranking in the final regular-season NSCAA poll and the number-one seed in the NCAA West Regional, where they destroyed Lawrence University in the regional semifinals, 5-0, before a 3-1 win over the University of Redlands in the regional title game which set up their national quarterfinal against Lynchburg. The Bearcats, who have not played a contest outside the northwest all season, have played eight consecutive contests at home, including their three NCAA Tournament games, where they are 12-0 in 2001.
Start times and ticket prices for Friday's semifinals and Saturday's title game will be released later on Monday.