2006 NESCAC Champions
Photo by Sam Masinter '04
The 2006 Amherst College volleyball team heads to the dance this week.

Jeffs Upend Williams for NESCAC Title

November 5, 2006

WILLIAMSTOWN, MA – The Amherst College volleyball team upset Williams College 3-1 for the NESCAC crown in front of a packed house in Williams’ Chandler Gymnasium Sunday afternoon. Amherst dropped the first game, 20-30, but took the next three games, 30-27, 30-27, 30-20, to come away with a berth in the 2006 NCAA championship tournament.

Williams showed its power in the first game, building up a four-point lead before Amherst sophomore hitter Claire Holton-Basaldua (San Rafael, CA) finally screamed the ball over the net – it ricocheted off a Williams back-liner and found the floor.  Williams put up another run, though, and Amherst couldn’t find its rhythm until junior hitter Jaclyn DeMais (Hillsdale, NJ) pounded one to put the score at 5-11. The Jeffs and Ephs traded points from there, but Amherst couldn’t reclaim control.

Amherst roared to life in the second game, though , as senior co-captain hitter Kristin Quinn (Pacific Palisades, CA) and junior hitter Whitney Kouvaris  (Jacksonville, FL) teamed up for a monstrous block to open the frame, and sophomore setter Sara Heller (La Canada, CA) settled down for a great service. DeMais slammed the ball into the Williams floor to put Amherst up 5-2. Williams and Amherst traded points from there. The Jeffs exploded with a four-point run midway through the game, when Kouvaris notched a kill following a long rally, Williams muffed a DeMais serve, and Kouvaris struck again to get Amherst to 18-12. Williams fought back, though, and took a 23-24 lead. The Ephs fell victim to their own errors – and a resounding DeMais slam – late in the game, as Amherst took the lead and the frame.

Williams built up a 3-10 lead in the third game; then, DeMais took serve and pounded the Ephs for four badly-needed points. Williams shot back with three unanswered points of its own, but Amherst came up with three more, capped by a Kouvaris crush. The score tied four times in the third game. The Jeffs finally pulled away for good at 26-20, when first-year defensive specialist Bethany Belisle (Austin, TX) sprawled out to keep the ball off the floor. Quinn followed up with a kill, and Williams couldn’t recover.

The last game started off tight, but Amherst opened up 15-9, 18-10, and 22-11 leads. Williams went all out, but couldn’t narrow the gap, and Amherst thundered on to the conference crown.

Quinn, DeMais and Kouvaris came up huge for Amherst. Quinn unloaded 20 kills; Kouvaris dominated with 22 kills and 19 digs; and DeMais tallied 18 kills and 26 digs. Heller, meanwhile, notched 54 assists and 14 digs. Belisle led the defense with 27 digs; and senior co-captain defensive specialist Laura Golden (Boca Raton, FL) made her mark with 15 digs and a critical service ace in the fourth game.

Amherst will begin its march towards a national championship over the Nov. 9 weekend, at a time and place to be determined. The NCAA will select its tournament field on Monday at 11 a.m. You can follow the selection at ncaasports.com.