There are several high stakes Little Three Williams-Amherst showdowns happening this weekend. incredibly, nine of the ten teams in action (all but Amherst hockey) are nationally ranked, and six of the ten teams are ranked in the top FIVE nationally! Hopefully, a large crew of students will travel to support both the men’s and women’s hoops teams in action at Lefrak on Saturday. Williams previews all the games here, and Amherst previews them here, including links for how to watch the events online. You can watch highlights of the Eph basketball teams on the Williams basketball show. For those following online, feel free to post about the events in progress here. Detailed preview continues below the break.
- Men’s ice hockey, Friday at 7:00 at Amherst: undefeated Williams men’s ice hockey is currently ranked third in the country, and Amherst also boasts a strong record. Both teams feature well-balanced scoring and one of the nation’s top goalies (the Ephs’ Ryan Purdy ’12 and Amherst’s Cole Anderson ’11). Williams looks to break a three game losing streak vs. the Jeffs, a rare occurrence in a rivalry traditionally dominated by the Ephs.
- Men’s basketball, Saturday at 2:00 at Amherst: Williams, ranked second, is a slight road favorite vs. number 17 Amherst. Williams and Amherst are both undefeated, and are first and second overall nationally in scoring differential. Amherst is very tall, athletic, experienced, and balanced. They don’t have any single player who dominates like Eph all-American candidates Troy Whittington ’11 (pictured above) and James Wang ’12, but star point guard Conor Meehan ’11, who leads Amherst in scoring and assists and is among the leaders in rebounding, isn’t far behind. Other Amherst players to watch include athletic forward William Workman ’13, arguably the most improved player in NESCAC, who is all over the court on both offense and defense (and who could not be stopped in Williamstown last year), and star frosh sixth man Aaron Toomey ’14, who was the runner-up for North Carolina player of the year in high school. Toomey can score points in bunches and is a slick ball handler to boot. The Ephs will also have to keep an eye on red-hot Taylor Barrise ’12, who has nailed an incredible 29 last 51 three point attempts. Up-and-down, but very talented, David Waller ’12 is an x-factor for the Jeffs; when he is on, the Jeffs are nearly impossible to guard. Amherst has a size advantage (starting five is 6’9, 6’7, 6’6, 6’5, 6’4, vs. 6’6, 6’8, 6’3, 6’3, 6’0), so the Ephs will have to do a good job keeping Amherst off the offensive glass. Williams is a bit quicker overall and has better shooters from the perimeter, so look for the Ephs to try to run and get easy looks before the long Amherst defenders can get settled in the half-court. Also, no one on Amherst (or on virtually any D-III team) can guard Whittington one-on-one, so the Ephs will have to take advantage of inevitable double teams to hit open jumpers. [Update: alas, Whittington, the Ephs’ most valuable player, has missed the last few games with an undisclosed injury and is not expected to play vs. Amherst — if he does not play or is significantly limited vs. the Jeffs, the Jeffs go from a slight underdog to the clear favorite at home. Back-up centers Brian Emerson ’12 and Michael Mayer ’14, while less experienced, do have the talent to step up, and if the Ephs play well without their senior star, it bodes well not only for this season, but also for the future]. Three point specialist James Klemm ’13, who recently poured in eight threes in one game, point guard Nate Robertson ’13 (who contributes far more on both ends than is apparent by looking at a box score), and the Ephs’ own stellar frosh, Taylor Epley ’14 and Hayden Rooke-Ley ’14, could be the beneficiaries of any extra focus on stopping Whittington and Wang.
- Women’s basketball, Saturday at 4:00 at Amherst: in the weekend’s marquis match-up, the odds are reversed, with number one Amherst (which has, incredibly, only one loss (to last year’s national champion) in its last 45 games, and is riding a 35 game home win streak), favored over the fourth-ranked Ephs. Neither team has ever ranked higher, and this is the first time Williams and Amherst have ever met in women’s hoops when both are ranked in the top ten (let alone the top five!). Both teams are, unsurprisingly, very balanced. Players to watch for Williams include speedy point guard Jill Greenberg ’12 and senior leaders (and leading scorers and rebounders) Taylor Shea ’11 and Chessie Jackson ’11. The x-factors for the Ephs are sophomore Claire Baecher, who at 6’3 can both nail threes and block shots, and microwave-esque streak shooter Grace Rehnquist ’13, whose dad Jim was one of the best ever to play basketball at Amherst. (Clearly, the shooting gene runs in the family). For the Ephs to have a chance against an experienced Amherst team that excels on defense and goes ten deep with interchangeable talented athletes (led by all-Americans Caroline Stedman ’12 and Jaci Daigneault ’11), Jackson, Baecher and Rehnquist will need to be firing from outside, as the three ball is the great equalizer against a favored opponent. Williams looks to break a five game losing streak vs. the Jeffs, who themselves managed to end a 14 game losing streak vs. Williams back in 2008.
- Women’s swimming and diving, Saturday at 1:00 at Chandler gym: this match-up features two of the five best teams, and arguably the three best individual swimmers (the Ephs’ Caroline Wilson ’13 and Logan Todhunter ’12, and Jeffs’ Kendra Stern ’11, all of whom have already won multiple national titles) in the country. Wilson and Stern finished 1-2 at nationals in the 500 freestyle last winter, with Wilson knocking off Stern by less than one tenth of a second. (Wilson won the 1650, Stern the 200, so there they met in the middle …). NCAA.com previews the showdown here.
- Men’s swimming and diving, Saturday at 4:00 at Chandler, also features two of the top ten teams in the country, and is expected to be a hotly contested match-up.