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PSU Cheerleading to begin first varsity season

PLYMOUTH, N.H. - A new era begins at Plymouth State University this weekend when the Panther cheerleading team officially begins its first season as a varsity sport.

The Panthers will perform at all PSU home men's and women's basketball games, beginning this weekend at Foley Gymnasium with the Cobblestone Inn Tip-Off Tournaments. The men's tourney runs Friday evening (5:30 and 7:30 p.m.) and Saturday afternoon (1:00 and 3:00 p.m.), and the women's event is at the same times Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon.

In addition, the Panther cheerleaders will perform in several competition and cheerleading exhibitions in February and March. Some of the key tournaments are the New Hampshire State competition in Durham in February, the New England Open Championships in Connecticut in early March, and the American Cheerleading Association's College Nationals in Myrtle Beach in mid-March.

Plymouth State has had a cheerleading team for many years, and several years ago it became an affiliate member of the athletic program. The Panther squad was elevated to a varsity program in February 2006, effective with the 2006-07 season.

The Panthers are led by head coach Carrie Kiley, who is now in her seventh season heading up the program. The captains of this year's team are seniors Haley Lebuff (Newburyport, Mass.) and Debbie Richardson (Maynard, Mass.)

"We have a good mix of returnees and newcomers," said Coach Kiley (right). "We've been working hard in the preseason on conditioning, stunts, tumbling and some basic cheers and dances. We also have weekly gymnastics instruction."

The other returning veterans on the squad are senior Caitlin MacInnis (Hooksett, N.H./Central), juniors Megan Brideau (Londonderry, N.H.) and Andrea McQuinn (Nashua, N.H.), and sophomores Erika Gibb (Hope, R.I./Scituate), Steph Koyianis (Manchester, N.H./West), Andrea Schiavo (Stormville, N.Y./Carmel Senior), and Ashley Smith (West Barnstable, Mass./Barnstable).

The newcomers include sophomore Erica Barnhart (Nashua, N.H.), and freshmen Alisha Buyck (Londonderry, N.H.), Jess Chaves (Sunapee, N.H.), Ashley Hutchinson (Danvers, Mass.), Shea Jarosz (Epping, N.H.), Brittany Kowalewski (Merrimac, Mass.), Sarah Lamirande (Milan, N.H./Berlin), McKenzie Letzring (Danvers, Mass.), Katrina Levesque (South Hampton, N.H./Amesbury, Mass.), Jenn Plate (Flemington, N.J./Hunterdon Central), Ryan Shannon (Laconia, N.H.), Erin Vogt (Dedham, Mass.), and Stefanie Webb (Derry, N.H./Pinkerton).

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