PLYMOUTH, N.H. - There will be several new faces on the field and a first-year head coach on the sideline when the Plymouth State College men's lacrosse team opens the 2002 campaign.
The Panthers, led by new head coach Chuck Little, will travel to Orlando, Fla., for a season-opening spring trip next week. PSC will take on Franklin Pierce College in the first game on Sunday (Mar. 17) and then face St. Lawrence University on Tuesday (Mar. 19). The first contest back in New England is scheduled for Mar. 26 at Bates, with the home opener slated for Apr. 1 against Salem State.
Although it's a brand new team wearing the Panther uniform this spring, Little says there are nothing but positives heading into the season.
"I inherited a program in good shape, and we're looking forward to a strong season," said Little, a 1989 Ithaca College graduate and former head coach at New Bedford (Mass.) High School. "We've been working hard in the off-season, and everyone has a good attitude. We want to build on the success the team has had the past few seasons."
Former head coach Nate Ostis, who departed to pursue other professional opportunities, guided the Panthers to a 17-14 record over the past two years. PSC earned a trip to the ECAC post-season tournament last spring, and placed fourth in the first season of the Little East Conference.
"We're hoping last year's ECAC berth will carry over to this season," said Little. "Our main goal is to compete for the Little East Conference title."
2002 P.S.C. Men's Lacrosse Outlook
PSC will have to overcome the loss of six starters, including a two-year starter in goal and two of the top offensive players in school history. But Little is encouraged with the depth in the midfield and the strength of the newcomers.
The offense will save several new faces handling the ball, as former all-stars and record-holders Jim Martocchio and J.P. Sallese have graduated. Junior Kevin Finnerty (Bay Shore, N.Y.) is the only returning starter, and will play a bigger role in 2002. Senior Eric Gilbert (South Portland, Maine) will see action at attack after moving up from his midfield position, and freshman Pat O'Malley (South Windsor, Conn.) is the leading candidate to fill the other starting spot.
PSC has several veterans who will anchor the midfield unit. Senior Andrew Quesnel (Middlebury, Vt.) and juniors Ken McGuire (Wayland, Mass.) and Jason Biedrzycki (Amherst, N.H.) all have plenty of experience, and will be team leaders this spring. Transfers Sam Harding (South Berwick, Maine) from St. Lawrence and Steve Skinner (Hingham, Mass.) from WNEC will also be key players for PSC in the midfield, along with veteran Nolan Fredericks (Temple, N.H.).
"We will rely on these guys for their veteran leadership," said Little.
The defense will be entirely new, but Coach Little has confidence in the unit PSC will put on the field. The defensive leader will be new junior goalie Dan Egan (Cambridge, Mass.), with sophomore Tim McNamara (West Lebanon, N.H.) capably backing him up.
"Dan Egan will be the quarterback down there," said Little. "We will count on him to lead the defensive core."
The Panthers lost all three starting defenders from last season, but Little is pleased and confident with the current group, which include freshmen Bryan Greene (Sudbury, Mass.), Matt McCormick (Sudbury, Mass.), Bill Cosentino (Levittown, N.Y.) and Ryan Cook (Temple, Maine) and senior Geoff Arris (Freeport, Maine), a former attackman.
"Our defense is very young, but they all come from strong programs and have strong skills and a knowledge of the game," said Little. "Greene and McCormick were high school teammates so they know each other well, and they are all very athletic. I have plenty of confidence in them as a unit."
Little is hoping the off-season hard work will turn into success this spring.
"Everyone has a good attitude and is working together, which is important," said Little. "I think we'll be a more balanced team this year, and hopefully a better all-around team."