PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The 1999 edition of the Plymouth State College field hockey team makes its debut this Tuesday (Sept. 7) with a non-conference affair at Gordon College (4 p.m.).
The Panthers will then play three straight games at Arold Field, beginning with the home opener next Thursday (Sept. 9) against UMass Lowell (4 p.m.). PSC has five home games in September, including the Little East Conference opener against Southern Maine on the 28th.
Plymouth State will face a tough 16-game regular season slate, culminating in the annual Little East Conference Tournament the last weekend in October. The winner of the LEC Tourney receives the conference's first automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
PSC will be out to return to the post-season after missing out with an inexperienced squad in 1998. The Panthers made five consecutive play-off appearances from 1993-97.
1999 P.S.C. Field Hockey Outlook
It will be a much more experienced Panther team that takes Arold Field for PSC in 1999. There are eight returnees who were starters in '98, compared to three a year ago, and 23 returning players overall who've seen action in a varsity game, compared to seven last fall.
The inexperienced unit had an up-and-down season in 1998 for first-year head coach Abby Burbank. There were the highs of winning the Cortland State Tournament on a game-winning, overtime goal, sharing the first Little East Conference regular season title, and blanking UMass Dartmouth in the semi-finals of the LEC Tournament. But the Panthers also lost to Keene State in the LEC final, and finished with an 8-9-0 overall record.
Now in her second season, Burbank is confident the Panthers will rebound to the form that earned PSC five straight post-season appearances from 1993-97, three times to the ECAC Tournament and twice to the NCAAs.
"We had a lot of players get a lot of varsity playing experience last season," said Burbank, "and that will help immeasurably. We were close in several games, but lacked the experience to pull out the tight ones. I expect a stronger team this season."
The Panther offense should have plenty of firepower, led by the return of senior co-captain Jill Sutherland (Rockport, Mass.) and the sophomore tandem of Katie Dodge (Sanbornton, NH) and Sacha Jackson (Sangerville, Maine). Sutherland is a four-year veteran who led the team in scoring last season with 10 goals and five assists, and is one of the top scorers in school history. Dodge and Jackson are coming off outstanding first year campaigns, Dodge scoring five goals and Jackson adding two goals and five assists.
Other key returnees who could contribute this fall include juniors Courtney O'Sullivan (East Kingston, NH) and Kerri Tarpy (Biddeford, Maine) and sophomores Megan Fournier (East Waterboro, Maine) and Nicole Lauriat (Greenfield, Mass.). Fournier (3 goals, 3 assists) moved into the starting forward line-up last season, while the others will all see playing time in the midfield. Senior co-captain Amanda Murphy (Canton, CT), a veteran of 42 games, should also move into the starting line-up and help the Panther attack.
Others battling for starting or reserve roles include senior Andrea Byron (Plymouth, NH), junior Kara Borden (Taunton, Mass.) and sophomore Robin Hartman (Santa Maria, CA) along with first-year players Kristle Wheeler (Brandon, VT) and Melanie McAvey (North Grafton, Mass.)
The Panther defense must overcome the loss of two starters, including two-time All-American Sarah Mello. The only returning starter is junior Tracy Noyes (Plymouth, NH), but Burbank is confident someone will emerge from the group of juniors Michelle Morch (Southampton, NY), Jaci Harradon (Yarmouth, Maine), and Angela Grady (Medway, Mass.) and sophomore Megan Wolfley (Maplewood, NJ).
The goaltending unit is without two-year starter Chris Perruzzi, but welcomes the return of sophomore Martha Dennerly (Concord, NH), who started five games for PSC last fall. She posted a 2.24 goals against average with one shutout, and is likely the top keeper in '99. Freshman Lindsay Breda (Londonderry, NH) is a strong back-up who could push Dennerly.
"We want to continue to be strong and competitive in New England, always looking towards the post-season," said Burbank. "We want to win the Little East Conference, and return to the post-season, and we feel we have the team that can do that."
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