PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University men's soccer team has high hopes again this season, which begins this week at Panther Field with the opening of the 51st season of varsity soccer in Plymouth.
The Panthers open the 2007 campaign this Wednesday, Sept. 5, at 4:00 p.m. against Gordon College. PSU has just three home games this month and seven home contests all season, and the Panthers are eager to get the season off to a good start.
PSU is coming off another strong season in 2006 which included a 10-7-2 overall record, the Little East Conference regular season championship with a 5-2 mark, and a visit to the post-season for the fourth straight season and ninth time in 10 years.
The 2007 Panthers, led by sixth-year head coach Rob Wright, 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.
PSU has won or shared a record nine LEC men's soccer regular season titles ('89, '93, '96, '97, '98, '99, '00, '03, and '06) but has won the LEC Tournament just once ('00) since the tourney began in 1999.
2007 PSU Men's Soccer Outlook
Plymouth State has 15 veterans back from last year's team, including five starters. PSU will likely have a bit of a new look, as gone are the top two scorers from last year as well as just about the entire defensive line.
PSU won the regular season conference title last year before falling in the championship game of the LEC Tournament.
"I think we can contend for the LEC Championship again this year," said Wright (left). "We're the defending regular season champs, and we're looking to go one game further in the tournament."
With three starters gone from the defense, goalkeeping will be a key position for PSU this year, and Wright is pleased with his situation in goal. Junior Tyler Shute (Deerfield, N.H./Concord) returns as a two-year starter, posting 11 career shutouts, while classmate Nick Giusto (West Islip, N.Y.) and a couple newcomers could push Shute for the job.
"We're very strong in goal," said Wright. "Shute is the returning starter but he is definitely being pushed by the others."
Senior Greg Grieco (Mahopac, N.Y./ Carmel) is the only returning starter on defense for PSU, having started 36 of 41 games in his career. Junior Takeru Tanikawa (Shizuoka, Japan/Tilton Prep (N.H.) will shift from midfield to center back to give the team another veteran in the back, and freshman Mike Hackett (Exeter, N.H.) should also see plenty of playing time. Junior Gareth Stephens (Yeovil, England), sophomore Tim Allan (Harleysville, Pa.) are also factors on defense, along with junior Corey Cenate (Springfield, Vt.)
Senior Keith Whittemore (Holderness, N.H./Plymouth Regional), a Second Team All-LEC selection last fall, should again be one of the top players in the conference and lead the group of Panther midfielders. Junior Seth Desjardins (Wakefield, N.H./Spaulding), a two-year starter, returns after missing all of last season with an injury and should be a solid contributor, and junior George Delano (Kingston, N.H./Sanborn Regional) made an impact last year and could find himself in the starting lineup.
Others who could contribute in the midfield or on defense include senior Jamal Luttamaguzi (Stockholm, Sweden), junior Adam Gove (Kingston, N.H./Sanborn Regional) and freshman Tommy Schrey (Munich, Germany/Alvirne, N.H.)
The Panther offense has some holes to fill with the loss of the top two scorers from last year. Senior Alex Marin (Manchester, NH/Memorial) and junior Pat Connolly (Newton, N.H./Sanborn Regional) are the top returning veterans and will be expected to step up. Wright also foresees newcomers Schrey, sophomore Eric Owens (Kingston, N.H./Sanborn Regional) and freshman Adrian Burnett (Durham, Conn./Coginchaug Regional) to be offensive contributors.
"We'll be entertaining to watch," said Wright. "I feel a little better about our offense than our defense at this point. After all we lost three of four starters on defense. Our new back line is more offensive-minded and skilled, so we will be a different kind of team."
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