Firedogs Torch Competition
By Jaskaran Bains '14, Staff Writer
The women’s volleyball team continued to impress last weekend at the 2010 Amherst Classic, where the Firedogs extended their winning streak to five games. After defeating St. Michael’s and Johnson & Wales last week, the team returned to defend its home court with a great deal of confidence.

The first day of the tournament brought two familiar foes, Brandeis and Westfield State. The Firedogs dispatched Brandeis in three sets but encountered some early difficulties in the first set. The Judges raced to a 3-0 lead before the Firedogs found their game and took control of the set with an 11—3 run to grab a 25—21 victory, spurred on by Devin Pence ’14, whose service ace at 19—19 gave the team the lead for good. A similar theme replayed itself in the next two sets, with the Judges taking the lead at the outset only to be surpassed by Amherst’s comeback efforts. After Laura Hyman ’11 emphatically ended the second set at 25—22, the team took the third frame 25—19 to win its third straight contest against Brandeis, a highly regarded team ranked 6th in the recent New England Volleyball Women’s Association Poll.

After defeating Brandeis, the Firedogs faced off against Westfield State and suffered a small letdown in the first set, losing by a mark of 24—26 after holding the set in its grasp at 24—22. This result proved surprising, as Amherst’s record against the Owls has historically been strong, including an impeccable 21—0 since 1999 without dropping a mere set in over 10 years. The Firedogs obviously came back with a renewed focus in the second stanza, jumping out to a quick 5—0 lead and never looked back, running to a 25—14 win. The strong defensive effort, led by Rachel Yorke ’11 and Abigail Hunter ’13, gave the Firedogs plenty of opportunities to seize the momentum; as Yorke stated, “When the block and back row players play consistently, we are able to set up our offense much easier.” Mary Reiser ’12 ensured a Firedog victory through her aggressive play at net, pushing the team to a 25—20 win to close out the match after a 25—23 triumph in the fourth set. Reiser put on a great show in both matches, totaling 16 kills with a .371 hitting percentage. Cristy Meier ’12 led the team with 19 kills for the day, many of them set up by Callie Nielson ’13, who totaled 74 assists in the two matches. Neilson lauded the rest of the team as well, saying, “The team as a whole really stepped up when it mattered most.”

Nielson’s playmaking abilities were on display again the following day against Coast Guard, as her season-high 52 assists led the team to an intense 3—2 win. The Firedogs lost the first set 23—25, but followed that with consecutive victories in the second and third frames by decisive scores of 25—15 and 25—16, respectively. After losing the fourth 20—25, the team showed toughness and resolve by winning the deciding set 15—5 to put the finishing touches on an undefeated tournament. Reiser was a dual threat in the match, spurring on both the offense and defense by recording 11 kills and five blocks. Meier jumpstarted the offense with 17 kills, and Yorke’s focus on defense enabled her to post 44 digs on the backline.

With the victory, the Firedogs improved their mark in the Amherst Classic to 18 of their last 19 matches. They also pushed their season record to 8—1, and the outlook is bright after five consecutive victories. With the September schedule wrapped up, the Firedogs travel to Bates over the weekend to play the host Bobcats on Friday and Colby on Saturday. The team, ranked ninth in the region before the Amherst Classic, will look to improve both its play and its ranking in the coming matches, and Yorke in particular feels a great deal of excitement about the team’s potential: “It’s still early in the season and the Firedogs are just getting started!”

Issue 04, Submitted 2010-09-29 19:31:54