PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Plymouth State College will have home-field advantage in its first three varsity field hockey games of the 1997 campaign, beginning this Thursday (Sept. 11) at Arold Field against UMass Lowell (4:00 p.m.).
The Panthers will also host New England powers Springfield College Saturday (Sept. 13) at 2 p.m., and Colby College next Tuesday (Sept. 16) at 4 p.m., before hitting the road for five straight contests and nine of the next 10.
Guided by sixth-year head coach Wynn Hohlt, the Panthers return all but three players from last year's team which made a fourth straight post-season appearance with an ECAC Tournament berth. Hohlt thinks this year's team has enough depth to not only make a fifth straight visit to the post-season, but challenge for an NCAA Tournament bid.
"I think we're really solid," said Hohlt, who led PSC to NCAA berths in '93 and '94 and ECAC berths in '95 and '96. "The depth in this group is outstanding. We have excellent experience with 11 seniors. We have plenty of quality players that we can put out on the field at any time, and we hope to take advantage of that."
The campaign got off to a good start during some pre-season scrimmages last weekend at MIT. The Panthers went 4-0 with wins over Babson, MIT, Tufts, and national power Middlebury.
"They were mini-games, but we were pleased with the results," said Hohlt. "Middlebury is going to be one of the strongest teams in New England, and we played them last. The game could've gone either way. Both teams had opportunities to score."
The Panthers will have to overcome the loss of last year's starting goalie and two starting defenders, but with solid depth, the entire offense returning and some solid newcomers, Hohlt is optimistic.
"Our offense is probably stronger than the defense right now," said Hohlt, "because we have so much firepower. We have so many people who can put the ball in the net. They seem to have acquired the ability to finish the play, to put the ball in the goal. We scored some goals Saturday that probably wouldn't have happened last year.
Hohlt has six or seven veterans who can provide a threat on the offensive end of the field, led by the senior contingent of Jenna Shearstone (Taunton, MA), Jen Garrity (Greene, ME), and Erin Murphy (Collinsville, CT) and sophomore Jill Sutherland (Gloucester, MA). Garrity is a tri-captain and three-year starter, and Shearstone and Turcotte were starters last fall. Murphy is a transfer from the University of Rhode Island. Senior Taryn Turcotte (South Berwick, ME) led the team in scoring last season with nine goals, and senior Tammi LeRoy (Barre, VT) and junior Kim Webster (Dover, NH) should both see ample playing time.
Also adding strength to the offensive punch will be senior midfielder Carrie Killeen (Greenfield, MA), a tri-captain and the top career scorer among active PSC players (13 goals). Killeen will be supported in the midfield by senior Jen Martin (Saunderstown, RI), a three-year veteran, and junior Boni Sordillo (Plymouth, NH), who started part-time last season. Hohlt will also look to senior Sarah Dodge (Sanbornton, NH), who is battling for a starting role, and junior Amanda Murphy (Collinsville, CT), who returns to the team after sitting out last season.
The defense is where PSC lost three seniors from last year, but Hohlt is confident with the returning group. Junior Sarah Mello (Oak Bluffs, MA) started every game last season and will likely handle one of the starting spots this fall, along with sophomore Shanna Bickford (Dover, NH), who was a reserve last season but has looked strong in pre-season. Senior tri-captain Laura Hebert (Spencer, MA) is a returning starter, senior Betsy Gilbert (Barre, VT) was a part-time starter, and senior Michele Wilgoren (Barre, VT) has shown solid improvement.
The biggest challenge for PSC is replacing starting goaltender Shelley Hoar, who played every minute of every Panther game the past two years. Junior Chris Peruzzi (South Portland, ME) will fill the void this season. She played back-up to Hoar the past two years, and last weekend's scrimmages marked her first collegiate action. Hohlt thinks Peruzzi benefited from last weekend's action and from working with Hoar the past two seasons, and will able to handle the job.
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