PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The 1998 campaign was one of the best in recent history for the Plymouth State College men's lacrosse team. The Panthers won 11 games, finishing 11-6, and advanced to the Pilgrim League championship game in their first season in the league.
Plymouth State, guided by head coach Dave Webster, won several Cox League titles earlier this decade, but those were based on regular season games only. By joining the Pilgrim League this spring, PSC got the chance to participate in post-season play by finishing in the top two in its division. The Panthers were successful, finishing 4-1 in Northwest Division games and earning a spot in the Pilgrim League play-offs.
After upsetting Wheaton, the Southeast Division's top seed, in the semi-finals, 14-13, PSC saw its title hopes end on a rainy, muddy Saturday in Willimantic, CT. Host Eastern Connecticut State University beat PSC for the second time this season, 22-10, winning its second straight league championship.
"We were happy to get as far as we did," said Webster, who completed his 21st season at PSC. "We had a goal to get into the play-offs, which we did. Then we upset the other division's top team on the road, so we feel pretty happy with our season. Eastern Conn. is an outstanding team. That's why they've won two straight (championships)."
The play-off performance came after a strong 10-5 regular season for the Panthers. PSC often started out slowly, falling behind and rallying in the second half. All five regular season losses were to regional powers Colby, Bowdoin, Bates, Eastern Connecticut and Richard Stockton College.
The Panthers had an outstanding offensive balance, averaging nearly 14 goals a game. There were four players who were excellent scoring threats anytime they had the ball, and another three or four who were solid contributors. The defense had to overcome a couple of injuries, but held its own over the long season, and a new goalie blended in by season's end.
PSC's three starting attackers were senior Brendan Burke (Beverly, MA), junior Josh Perry (Falmouth, MA) and freshman Jim Martocchio (Simsbury, CT), who all had excellent seasons. Burke scored 36 goals and finished an outstanding career as one of PSC's all-time leading scorers. He's fourth on the career goals list (118), and seventh on the career points list (129). Perry led the team in scoring for the second straight season, finishing with 36 goals, 45 assists and 81 points. His 45 assists is the third-best single-season total in school history, and the 81 points is fourth-best. With a season still to play, Perry is already fifth in school history in assists (58), and ninth in goals (63) and points (121). Martocchio turned in a remarkable freshman campaign, setting the school record for goals in a season (53), joining Tony Colabro in 1971 as the only Plymouth State players with 50 goals in a season. Martocchio was named Pilgrim League Rookie of the Week three times.
Much of PSC's offense also came from sophomore midfielder Travis Moore (South Berwick, ME). The speedster finished second on the team in scoring with 41 goals and 32 assists, including a superb effort in the play-off game at Wheaton, when he scored seven times and assisted on three others in a 14-13 win. The Pilgrim League's Northwest Division Player of the Year, Moore is 10th on PSC's career scoring list (57-53-110) after just two years.
Other veteran contributors to the Panther offense included midfielders Nate Ostis (Yarmouth, ME), Jonathan Hunt (Guilford, CT) and Ben Stone (Acton, MA). Ostis was a team captain and leader and scored 12 goals and 14 assists, and Hunt and Stone combined to score 20 goals. A solid contingent of freshmen included J.P. Sallese (Beverly, MA), Jason Arbusto (Huntington, MD) and Sean Clancy (Penfield, NY).
Junior Eric Emilo (Middlebury, VT) backboned the Panther defense, and was named to the All-Pilgrim League team. His fellow starters included senior Brooks Parker (Hingham, MA), sophomore Sean Murphy (Eliot, ME), and/or freshman Brian White (Guilford, CT). Junior Peter Slaski (Bayville, NY), one of the top defensemen from last year, was injured in the second game and missed the rest of the season.
The Panthers had two new goalies this spring, with freshman Nate Pearson (Bow, NH) earning the starting job and most of the playing time over sophomore Kevin Gholami (Markleysburg, PA). Pearson made 202 saves and posted a .575 saves percentage, while Gholami beat Norwich in his only start, posting a .588 saves percentage as a back-up.
As usual, the Panthers had plenty of depth in the midfield. Among those who saw regular playing time were senior M.C. Malboeuf (Laconia, NH), juniors Matt Haskell (Bowdoinham, ME) and Joe O'Brien (Needham, MA), and freshmen Corey Gray (Saco, ME), Kevin Mitchell (Windsor, CT), Tony Bosco (Londonderry, NH), and Mike O'Leary (Stony Brook, NY). Other reserves included junior Mike French (Merrimack, NH), sophomore Matt Dutton (White Plains, NY) and freshman Tanner Maguire (Farmington, ME).
Webster had additional help on his staff this season. Bob Ewell, a former head coach at Colby College and assistant at Princeton, joined Webster as an assistant coach.
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