PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The beginning of what should be another exciting year for the Plymouth State College men's soccer team is this Saturday in the season opener at Panther Field.
The Panthers will host Franklin & Marshall University in a non-league match-up at 1 p.m. PSC will also host in-state rival St. Anselm in the annual contest next Wednesday (Sept. 8), beginning an 18-game slate that includes seven Little East Conference affairs.
The schedule culminates in the inaugural Little East Conference Tournament the first weekend in November, with the winner receiving the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. PSC has been selected to the last two NCAA Tournaments, hosting the 1998 New England Regional.
1999 P.S.C. Men's Soccer Outlook
After advancing to the NCAA Regional Final in 1997, posting a 14-3-2 record and finishing 10th in the final Division III national poll, the Panthers had the difficult challenge of repeating that success in 1998. So head coach Shawn Griffin and his troops simply went out and equaled, maybe even outdid their predecessors.
The 1998 Panthers completed an unbeaten regular season (16-0-2), this time earning the right to host the NCAA Regionals. PSC again advanced to the final match, but a 3-2 loss to Williams didn't mar what was a terrific 1998 campaign: a 17-1-2 final record, a third straight Little East Conference title, and a final Division III national ranking of #11.
This fall, Griffin returns nine regulars, including four who have earned post-season All-Star honors, and the eighth-year head coach feels good about the season's outlook.
"We lost some key people, but I feel good about they guys we have coming back," said Griffin. "We graduated several players after the '97 season, and we ended up alright last season. I'm very optimistic with who we have coming back, and we hope to keep our post-season run going."
The Panthers have returning veterans all over the field, except between the pipes. Last year's starting keeper, Shawn Higgins, became a Second Team All-America after taking over for four-year veteran Magnus Karlsson. The only experienced returning keeper is Scott Laine (Spencer, Mass.), who saw limited action in four games in '98, although Griffin says a newcomer or two could challenge for the job.
"We have four very talented candidates who are all very good," said Griffin. "I'm not concerned at all. Scott Laine had a good spring, but he will have to win the job. It's wide open going into the season."
Look for the Panthers to have another very stingy defensive unit, relieving some of the pressure from a young keeper. Sophomore sweeper Magnus Eriksson (Arjang, Sweden) earned All-New England honors in '98 after a strong freshman campaign. He has plenty of defensive help with the return of junior Simon Sendowski (Gothenberg, Sweden), senior captain Michael Soares (West Haven, Conn.) and classmate Scott Curran (Pawcatuck, Conn.).
PSC is fortunate to have one of the top players in the country patrolling the midfield. Senior captain Kevin Martin (Foxboro, Mass.) is a dominant player who earned Second Team All-America honors last season, and draws rave reviews from fans and visiting coaches alike. After sitting out the '96 and '97 seasons, he had a breakout season in '98, and is looking for another in '99.
"Kevin Martin will put an exclamation point on his final year of college soccer," said Griffin. "He has honed his skills this summer in the National Professional Development League. He'll be the most mature player on the field every day this fall. He is the man, and he can back it up."
Also returning to the midfield is junior Jeremy Gasowski (Lee, NH), who had a solid season last fall as a first-year starter. Griffin will also have the use of senior Jon Plater (Hillsboro, NH) and sophomores Troy Silva (West Tisbury, Mass.) and Garry Thomson (Glasgow, Scotland) in the midfield.
The offense will be without LEC Player of the Year Jesse Elderkin, who exploded for 16 goals in his senior season, but welcomes the return of LEC Rookie of the Year Antoine Moiboueyi (Gabon, Africa). The powerful Moiboueyi came off the bench to score 12 goals as a freshman last year, including some of the biggest of the season, and was a huge spark for the Panthers. Griffin says Antoine will no doubt be in the starting line-up this fall, but the other forward spot(s) are undecided.
"No one else has stepped up yet offensively, but I expect someone will," said Griffin. "A lot of it depends on how we line up and what formation we use."
Griffin has plenty of reasons to be optimistic.
"We feel we're as strong up the middle as any team in the country, with Magnus Eriksson, Antoine Moiboueyi and Kevin Martin," said Griffin. "We're looking forward to another excellent year."
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