PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The pre-season training for the Plymouth State College varsity skiing teams will be put to the test for the first time this weekend as the Panthers open the competitive season at Berkshire East Mountain in Western Massachusetts.
The Panther men and women will ski both Saturday and Sunday (Jan. 17-18), with slalom events for both men and women scheduled for Saturday and giant slalom races set for Sunday.
Both Panther men's and women's teams are guided by 11th-year head coach Kim Bownes and third-year assistant Dave Gyger.
The Panthers should again be one of the powerhouses in the eastern region of the U.S. Collegiate Ski Association. Only one skier has graduated from the men's team that won the regional title last year and finished sixth at the nationals, and just two are gone from the women's squad that was runner-up at the regionals and 10th at the nationals. The previous year, the PSC men were regional runner-up and the women won the title.
Bownes noted that the competition will be stronger this season with the addition of two schools, Colby-Sawyer and New England College, who formerly skied at the NCAA level.
"I have a very good feeling about the season, especially seeing the skiing this week," said Bownes. "We've been skiing since November, but this is the first time we've been training in gates this season. I'm excited with what I see."
"Our men's team is exceptionally strong," Bownes added. "We have more depth than at any time in my 11 years here. Although we lost our top skier from last year, we've added several guys and improved our depth. They also should be stronger because we have a big bulk of seniors who are very excited about having a big season, so hopefully that will work in our favor."
Gone from last year's team is Ryan Boissonneault, who was the overall eastern regional individual champion, finishing first in the giant slalom and fifth in the slalom. But the Panthers have plenty of strong returnees, led by seniors Ben Moody (New Boston, NH), M.C. Malboeuf (Gilford, NH/Proctor Academy), Jeff Cuff (Belfontaine, ONT), and Ryan Welch (Rutland, VT). All four veterans were ranked in the top 11 in last year's regular season individual standings, and all four had a top 10 finish at the regionals. Moody was exceptionally strong, placing fourth in both events. Also in the mix should be junior Carter Davidson (Madison, NH), who had a pair of top 10 finishes last year.
"We hope the men will again challenge for the eastern crown, and make a strong finish at nationals," said Bownes. "I'd really like to see a top five finish at nationals."
Bownes is also optimistic about the women's team. Top returnees include senior captain Kyla Dunfee (Gilford, NH) and juniors Amanda DiLeo (Ridgewood, NJ) and Sarah Thompson (Southborough, MA). They will have to help overcome the loss of last year's seniors Tracy Dwight and Kerry Brennan. Bownes says the top newcomer should be freshman Anda Curuta from Sibiu, Romania.
"We expect the women to challenge for the eastern regional title, and make a third straight trip to the nationals," said Bownes. "We should be a little stronger than last year. We've improved, plus the addition on Anda. She's an outstanding skier and an unbelievably hard worker. Her team in Romania had a connection with Loon Mountain, our home mountain, and that's how she found Plymouth State."
After the weekend at Berkshire East, the Panthers will return to New Hampshire the following two weekends, skiing at Waterville Valley on Jan. 24-25 and at Loon Mountain on Jan.31-Feb. 1. The eastern regionals are scheduled for Feb. 22-23, at Waterville Valley, and the nationals are at Loon on Mar. 11-14.
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