PLYMOUTH, N.H. - For the first time in nine years, the Plymouth State College men's soccer team will have a new head coach on the sideline when the season begins this weekend in New Jersey.
The new coach is Keith Byrnes, a 1995 graduate of Plattsburgh State and former assistant coach at Norwich University. He takes over from Shawn Griffin, who departed last spring to become head coach at Hobart College.
The Panthers will open up the season by participating in the Sunkist Kick-Off Classic, hosted by Rowan University in Glassboro, N.J. PSC will face Virginia Wesleyan Saturday (Sept. 2) at 6 p.m., and either Rowan or Haverford on Sunday (Sept. 3).
Byrnes inherits a squad that returns seven starters and 15 lettermen from an ECAC play-off team that finished 12-9-0 overall and shared the Little East Conference regular season title with a 6-1 mark.
"It's good to have a lot of returning players," says Byrnes. "It gives me a good base of players to work with. That should make for a smooth transition to a new coach. There might be some growing pains here and there, but by the conference games, we should be clicking. They guys have been great. We're all in this together."
The Panthers have made six post-season appearances in the last eight years, including NCAA berths in 1997 and 1998 and an ECAC bid in 1999.
2000 P.S.C. Men's Soccer Outlook
The Panthers have been very strong defensively in recent years, and that is not likely to change. Three starting defenders and both goalies return, a contingent that posted eight shutouts last season.
Junior Magnus Eriksson (Arjang, Sweden), a two-time All-LEC First Team selection from the sweeper spot, anchors the unit. Senior co-captain Simon Sendowski (Gothenberg, Sweden) earned All-LEC honors last season, and senior co-captain Scott Curran (Pawcatuck, Conn.) is a three-year starter. Junior Justin Wengell (Newington, Conn.) can capably fill in as a back-up.
Sophomore keeper Brad Wilby (Haddonfield, N.J.) started 17 of PSC's 21 games last season, and is the likely starter this fall. He posted a credible 1.44 goals against average with three shutouts in his rookie campaign. Junior Scott Laine (Spencer, Mass.) is a solid reserve, recording a 0.75 goals against with one shutout, and sophomore Michele Pompa (Johannesburg, So. Africa) adds depth.
The midfield unit will have to overcome the loss of All-America and two-time All-New England selection Kevin Martin. Senior co-captain Jeremy Gasowski (Lee, N.H.) was third on the team in scoring with five goals and five assists, and was an All-LEC selection. Other returnees who saw regular playing time last season include junior Garry Thomson (Glasgow, Scotland), sophomore Rob Ball (Rockaway, N.J.) and seniors Ceamus McDermott (Centerville, Mass.) and Blair Weeden (North Woodstock, NH).
The offense welcomes back junior Antoine Moiboueyi (Gabon, Africa/Acton-Boxborough H.S.- Mass.), an All-New England selection in 1999 after scoring seven goals. He was the Little East Conference Rookie of the Year in '98 after a 12-goal campaign. He could be joined by senior Jon Plater (Hillsboro, N.H.), a former defender who red-shirted last season, or sophomore Sal Friello (West Haven, Conn.), who scored five goals in 13 games as a freshman.
"Our most important goal is to improve this season," said Byrnes. "We want to get to the conference tournament, and win the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. I think team unity is one of the strongest parts of this team. They're there for each other, and it comes across on the field."
-- 30 --