PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Plymouth State College has high hopes for another successful men's soccer season, and the 2001 campaign kicks off this weekend in tournament play in Fredonia, N.Y.
The Panthers will take on host Fredonia on Friday (Sept. 7) at 2:00 p.m. in the tournament opener, and come back Saturday (Sept. 8) at 12 p.m. to face Penn State-Behrend. PSC will play two more road games next week at Bridgewater State (Sept. 12) and Roger Williams (Sept. 15) before the home opener at Panther Field on Wednesday, Sept. 19th, against nationally-ranked Wheaton College (4:00 p.m.).
Led by second-year head coach Keith Byrnes, the Panthers are coming off an excellent season in 2000. PSC captured the Little East Conference regular season and tournament championships, advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament and finished with a 15-5 overall record.
PSC will play a 15-match regular season schedule, including seven LEC contests. The Little East play-offs begin on Tuesday, Oct. 30th, with the conference champion being crowned on Sunday, Nov. 4th, and earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
2001 PSC Men's Soccer Outlook
The Panthers have 14 returning veterans, including three All-LEC selections and one All-American, and Byrnes thinks this year's squad can be just as successful as last year's.
"We have a lot of players who have won championships and played in the NCAA Tournament," said Byrnes, "and they know what level of play is needed to get us back there. These guys think they can get back to the NCAA and get further than they have in the past, and I think they can do it."
PSC completed the season at 15-5 overall last fall, winning the LEC in a dramatic triple-overtime affair at Panther Field. The Green and White also advanced in the NCAA regionals with a home victory in the opening round over Norwich University.
"Our philosophy and style will be consistent with what we've done in the past," said Byrnes, "although we may look to push forward a little more this year. Our goals are still to win the conference and have home-field advantage in the post-season."
Leading the cast of returnees is senior sweeper Magnus Eriksson (Arjang, Sweden), the LEC Player of the Year and All-America selection. He is a solid anchor to the defensive unit, which also will likely include sophomores Mike Hallworth (Sandown, N.H.) and Kyle Bowman (Bedford, N.H.) "We'll have some new faces in the back," said Byrnes, "We lost two starters on defense in Simon Sendowski and Scott Curran, so some of the defensive spots are up for grabs."
Junior Brad Wilby (Haddonfield, N.J.) and senior Scott Laine (Spencer, Mass.) give PSC a pair of solid goalkeepers to chose from. Wilby got the majority of starts the last two seasons, but Byrnes indicated that both will get plenty of playing time this year, and he feels confident with either choice.
"The starting job is up in the air," said Byrnes. "Either one of those guys could start for most teams."
PSC welcomes back senior Garry Thomson (Glasgow, Scotland), an All-LEC pick, and junior Justin Wengell (Newington, Conn.) to the center midfield, an area of strength for the Panthers. The team will also have several other returning veterans to turn to on the outside - juniors Troy Silva (West Tisbury, Mass.) and Rob Ball (Rockaway, N.J.) and seniors John Foster (Haddonfield, N.J.) and Darryl Plimpton (Billerica, Mass.).
Senior Antoine Moiboueyi (Gabon, Africa), the leading scorer the past two seasons, returns to lead the offense. He is a two-time All-New England selection who has scored 28 career goals. Moiboueyi will likely be joined by junior Jake Morley (Southampton, England) and sophomores Michael Cantelli (Raymond, N.H.) and Chipe Culum (Manchester, N.H.).
"We'll have a lot of new faces on our team," said Byrnes, "so team chemistry will be big and how the veterans blend with the new guys. But we have the talent to again have a very good season."