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Plymouth State Field Hockey to begin 2004 campaign

 PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University field hockey team begins the road to what will hopefully be its fifth consecutive post-season berth with a pair of road games to open the schedule.

            The Panthers travel to Waterville, Maine, this Saturday for a non-conference affair against Thomas College (1:00 p.m.), and then visit Castleton State (Vt.) College next Wednesday (Sept. 8) for a 4:00 p.m. contest.  The home opener at Arold Field is slated for Saturday, Sept. 11, against a tough Springfield College team (12:30 p.m.).

            PSU, which won three consecutive Little East Conference championships from 2000-02, is seeking to regain the title after finishing runner-up last season.  The Panthers earned an ECAC Tournament berth in 2003 after advancing to the NCAA Tournament the previous three seasons.  Plymouth State finished 12-7 overall last year and is 59-19 over the last four years.

            Included in PSU's 16-game regular-season slate are 10 LEC contests.  The Panthers are 37-3 the last four years in regular-season conference games.  The conference tournament is on tap for the first week in November, with the champion receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.

  2004 PSU Field Hockey Outlook

  Hopes are again high for PSU in 2004, according to fifth-year head coach Bonnie Lord.

"We're hoping to pick up from where we left off last year," says Lord.  "After a slow start, we had a strong October (9-1) and went on to the ECAC's.  We set the foundation last year for what could be a very successful season this year."

"I'm excited about the overall balance of this year's team," adds Lord, "and the growth from last season, from maturity to skill level to conditioning.  Last year's team was very young, while this year's team is much more experienced.  It's basically the same group as last year, but everyone is a year older, and better.  And they're going to blend well with the strong recruits we have coming in."

The Panthers are always known for a tight and stingy defense under Lord, and this season looks to be no different.  Senior co-captain and two-time All-LEC defender Annie Metz (North Chelmsford, Mass.) anchors a solid group that also includes three other returning starters - sophomores Laurie Allinson (Berwick, Maine) and Heather Corrigan (West Hartford, Conn.) and junior Kara Parent (Hampton, N.H.). The unit combined to allow only 31 goals last year and post six shutouts. Junior Morgan Butters (Stow, Maine)  or one of the newcomers could also step in.

The goaltending situation is wide open, with no returnees from last season, but Coach Lord is very confident with the two freshmen netminders, Katie Randall (Portsmouth, N.H.) and Leah Curtin (Londonderry, N.H.).

Senior co-captain Caitlin Moran (Rowley, Mass.), a three-year starter, leads a solid midfield unit that includes junior Melanie Dixon (Mattapoisett, Mass.) and sophomore Christina Farias (East Dennis, Mass.).  Dixon has battled mono and injuries but could be a factor while Farias had a solid freshman campaign. Junior Ashley LaRose (Milton, Vt.) and the newcomers will give PSU solid depth.

Senior co-captain Amanda Gutowski (Conway, N.H.) is joined on a formidable front line by junior Lilly Silva (Lowell, Mass.), a First Team All-LEC selection last year, and sophomore Melanie Bates (Derry, N.H.), the 2003 LEC Rookie of the Year.  Those three combined for 35 goals last season, with each scoring at least 11 times and Silva adding a school-record 10 assists.

"I feel that we're pretty solid up and down the line," says Lord.  "We are very balanced, and not just strong in one area.  We're excited about the season."

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