PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University men's soccer team will kick off the 2008 season this weekend with a trip to upstate New York for the annual Cardinal Classic hosted by SUNY Plattsurgh.
The Panthers will meet Potsdam State in the opener this Saturday at 2:30 p.m., and face Plattsburgh State Sunday at 2:30 p.m. Potsdam opened its season last weekend at home with a win over Cazenovia and a tie against Wells College, and Plattsburgh made its season debut at the Franklin and Marshall Classic with a pair of shutout victories over Eastern University and Franklin and Marshall.
Plymouth State will return home after the tournament to play its next three games on home turf at Panther Field. The home opener is Wednesday, Sept. 10, at 4:30 p.m. against Salem State College, followed by a pair of matches next weekend, Sept. 13-14, against Bridgewater State College and Green Mountain College.
PSU is looking to get back on track this season after a sub-par campaign in 2007. The Panthers finished with a 6-8-2 overall record and missed the Little East Conference Tournament after posting a 2-4-1 mark in conference play. Seventh-year head coach Rob Wright is optimistic that the team will be back challenging for the LEC title this fall.
The Panthers play a 17-game regular season schedule, including seven Little East 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.
2008 PSU Men's Soccer Outlook
Plymouth State has 15 veterans back from last year's team as well as the team's leading scorer from 2005 and 2006, who missed all of last season with an injury. Coach Wright (right) is confident in the Panther squad that will take the field.
PSU won the regular season conference title in 2006 before slipping to fifth place last year.
"We have a very motivated group of guys, because of what they went through last season," said Wright. "Our losing season last year has been a very big driving force for all of us."
The return of senior Semir Mehmedovic (Concord, N.H./Franklin) should bolster the Panther offense. Mehmedovic led the team with 10 goals as a freshman in 2005, and led the team in scoring again in 2006 with six goals and six assists. Senior Pat Connolly (Newton, N.H./Sanborn Regional) is the top returning scorer from last year and is hoping for a strong senior season. Sophomore Tommy Schrey (Munich, Germany/Alvirne, N.H.) could also be a factor in the offense, along with some midfielders, according to Wright. Freshman Dimitrios Kapotis (Woodsville, N.H./Woodsville/Tilton) looks like the top newcomer on offense.
PSU has a large group of veterans returning in the midfield. Senior co-captain Seth Desjardins (Wakefield, N.H./Spaulding) is a three-year starter in the middle, and seniors George Delano (Kingston, N.H./Sanborn Regional) and Adam Gove (Kingston, N.H./Sanborn Regional) both have plenty of experience. Senior co-captain Corey Cenate (Springfield, Vt./Springfield) could also move up into the midfield from defense, and sophomores Alex Ciccolinifoley (York, Maine/York) and Stefan Welch (Tokyo, Japan/Yakota) will be looking for more playing time after gaining experience as freshmen.
The Panther defense will likely have a new look. Senior co-captain Gareth Stephens (Yeovil, England) and junior Tim Allan (Harleysville, Pa.) are veteran starters and will see playing time in the back. Junior Drew McSpiritt (Londonderry, N.H./Londonderry) could also fill in, or Cenate or Desjardins may drop back from the midfield. Coach Wright is also hoping for one of the newcomers to step up.
Senior Tyler Shute (Deerfield, N.H./Concord) returns as a three-year starter in the Panther goal, posting 12 career shutouts. Classmate Nick Giusto (West Islip, N.Y.) or junior Dan Salzer (Dover, N.H./Oyster River) could push Shute for the job.
"We have a competitive situation in goal," said Wright. "Shute is the returning starter but if he is not fully prepared, the other guys have played well when given the chance."
Coach Wright is confident the team can challenge for the Little East championship.
"If we stay fit, we can get back to the top of our conference," said Wright. "We're very skilled and we're incredibly quick and talented. Our lack of size could be a problem if some of our big guys get hurt. When we had everyone healthy last year, we showed how strong we can be."
-- 30 --