PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University field hockey team will be looking to return to the form that made six consecutive post-season appearances from 2000-05 when the 2007 season begins next week.
The Panthers will begin the new campaign next Wednesday, Sept. 5, at Arold Field with a non-conference encounter against Castleton State College (4:00 p.m.) PSU follows that with the Little East Conference opener on Saturday, Sept. 8, at Salem State College (11 a.m.)
After six straight winning seasons under coach Bonnie Lord, featuring three NCAA Tournament berths and three ECAC Tournament selections, including one championship, Plymouth State slipped under .500 last season at 7-9 overall and 5-6 in conference play.
Winning has been the standard for Plymouth State field hockey since Lord took over as head coach in 2000, as the Panthers have combined for a 97-38 overall record.
PSU will play a 16-game regular-season slate in 2007, including 11 LEC contests. The conference tournament is set for the first week in November, with the champion receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
2007 PSU Field Hockey Outlook
The Panthers have nine starters and 14 veterans returning from last year's squad. Coach Lord (left) believes this year's squad will again challenge for the LEC title.
"We should be back, contending for the LEC title and the post-season," says Lord. "We plan to pick up from where we left off; we finished the season strong. We had a lot of freshmen play last year, and they've gained valuable experience which gives us veteran players back this season."
PSU lost two of its top three scorers to graduation, but returns the rest of the starting line-up, including the entire defensive unit. Defense has always been a strength for Plymouth State under Coach Lord, and this year should be no different.
"We have the full returning defense, including our starting goalkeeper," says Lord. "We have plenty of strength back there, just as we always have."
Senior Katie Randall (Portsmouth, N.H.) returns as the likely starter in goal. She has been the starter two of the past three years, posting a 25-10 record (missing much of her sophomore season with illness). Classmate and back-up Leah Curtin (Londonderry, N.H.) can handle the job when called upon.
"We build from the goal cage out, and we feel good with Katie back there," says Lord. "We look for another big year from her."
Seniors Amy McGrath (Townsend, Mass./North Middlesex Regional) and Rachel Kirschner (Burlington, Conn./Lewis S. Mills) are the top returnees on the Panther defense, flanked by sophomores Cortney Colligan (Brookfield, NH/Kingswood) and Melinda Rozumek (Salem, N.H.). Coach Lord is also excited about the arrival of freshman defender Betsy Renauld (Penacook, N.H./Merrimack Valley).
Senior Katie Barany (Middlesex, Vt./U-32) and junior Ashley Gutowski (Conway, N.H./Kennett) return to anchor the midfield unit. Barany excelled last season after moving up from defense while Gutowski provided a spark in her first year after transferring from Holy Cross. Sophomore Lindsey Hiltz (Manchester, N.H./West) will look for more playing time this season after seeing limited action last fall, and a group of freshmen will get a chance to prove themselves, led by Lauren Plummer (Monument Beach, Mass.), Sarah Warner (Contoocook, N.H.) and Jessyca Dalzell (Goffstown, N.H./Bishop Brady).
Sophomore Morgan Lemmon (Gilford, N.H./Bishop Brady) returns to spearhead the offense after leading the team in scoring last year with nine goals and 20 points. Classmate Sarah Smith (Lexington, Mass.) came on late in the year, finishing with four goals, and should be a solid contributor this year. Junior Amanda Sherburne (Rumney, N.H./Plymouth Regional) and sophomores Katie Chase (Goffstown, N.H.) and Kerry D'Ambroise (Lowell, Mass.) will also see playing time and could chip in to the offense.
Sophomore Laura Rianhard (Medfield, Mass.), a first-year player, has made a solid impact on the team and could find a spot in the starting lineup.
"We have a veteran squad that is well prepared for the season," said Lord. "We've tasted both winning and losing, and by having a disappointing season last year, we are hungrier this year. We think we can return to being the contenders we were before. We're both mentally and physically prepared to reclaim our position of success."
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