PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Fans of Plymouth State University men's soccer will have several opportunities to see the team on home turf this month, as the 50th season of men's soccer at Plymouth State kicks off in high gear.
The Panthers make their season debut this Wednesday, Sept. 6, in a non-conference encounter at Gordon College (4:00 p.m.) PSU then plays the first of five straight games at Panther Field this Saturday, Sept. 6, against Salem State (5:00 p.m.)
Plymouth State is recognizing a landmark in its athletic history this fall, as the men's soccer program celebrates its 50th season of competition. During the weekend of Oct. 7-8, alumni from all across the world will be returning to Plymouth to join in the celebration and look back at one of PSU's most storied athletic programs.
The first varsity contest was in 1957 when the institution was known as Plymouth Teachers College. The opening contest was against Gorham Teachers College (now the University of Southern Maine), which was also playing its first game. On Sunday, Oct. 8, 2006, the two schools will meet again, both schools celebrating 50 years of competition.
The 2006 Panthers, led by fifth-year head coach Rob Wright (left), will play a 16-game regular season schedule, including seven Little East Conference contests. The annual LEC Tournament is on tap for the first week of November, with the champion receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament.
2006 PSU Men's Soccer Outlook
Plymouth State has 15 veterans back from last year's team, which finished with a 12-4-4 overall record. The Panthers tied for third in the LEC with a 4-2-1 mark, and were picked third in the pre-season LEC coaches' poll.
"They guys are determined to do better than that, and I believe they will," says Wright. "We have the potential to win the whole thing. We return quality players across the board."
PSU should again have one of the strongest defenses in the conference, led by the return of senior captain and LEC Defensive Player of the Year Bryan Biederman (Holderness, N.H./Plymouth Regional).
"He's the top defender in the conference," says Wright. "That's not just my opinion; he was voted that by the other coaches. We're very comfortable having him back there."
Biederman will be joined on defense by juniors Matt Verrecchia (South Kingstown, R.I./The Prout School) and Greg Grieco (Mahopac, N.Y./ Carmel). Verrecchia has started 21 of his 29 games over the past two years, and Greico has started 19 of 29 in that span, and both have proven they can handle the job. The other starting defensive position is up for grabs, according to Wright, between senior Steve Martus (Wilton, N.H.) and one or more of the newcomers.
Sophomore Tyler Shute (Deerfield, N.H./Concord) returns as the incumbent starting keeper, posting a 1.03 goals against average last year with six shutouts. Classmate Nick Giusto (West Islip, N.Y.) returns to push Shute, along with freshman Joey Burrows (Hudson, N.H./Alvirne).
The Panthers lost nearly their entire midfield unit, either to graduation or injury, but Wright is confident with the contingent that will take the field. There are several reserves who were significant contributors last year that are ready to step up, along with a couple of strong newcomers.
Junior Keith Whittemore (Holderness, N.H./Plymouth Regional), a transfer from Saint Anselm College, should lead the group of midfielders. The experienced returnees includes senior Dustin Moya (Thornton, Co./Horizon), juniors Jamal Luttamaguzi (Stockholm, Sweden) and Takeru Tanikawa (Shizuoka, Japan/Tilton Prep (N.H.), and sophomores Gareth Stephens (Yeovil, England) and Corey Cenate (Springfield, Vt.) Sophomores George Delano (Kingston, N.H./Sanborn Reg.) and Adam Gove (Kingston, N.H./Sanborn Reg.), both transfers from Keene State College, are also looking strong, according to Wright.
Look for senior Felix Rosen (Stockholm, Sweden) and sophomore Semir Mehmedovic (Franklin, N.H.) to lead the Panther offense. Rosen led the team in scoring with seven goals in 2003 and 2004 before missing last season with an injury, while Mehmedovic topped the team last year as a rookie with 10 goals and six assists.
Some of the midfielders or a newcomer could also see action at forward, or Wright could turn to junior Alex Marin (Manchester, NH/Memorial) or sophomore Pat Connolly (Newton, N.H./Sanborn Reg.)
"It's no secret that we're very small, but we're quick, skillful and very athletic," says Coach Wright. "We'll have to play to our strengths. We have an excellent junior class, one that has the potential to be one of the best ever. It's time for those boys to step up and deliver."
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