PLYMOUTH, N.H. - A new era of women's basketball at Plymouth State College begins this weekend when the 1998-99 season tips off under new head coach Lauren Lavigne.
The Panthers will play their first six games on the road, beginning this weekend with a pair in New London, Conn. PSC will face Connecticut College Friday (Nov. 20) in the opener (7:00 p.m.), and come back Saturday (Nov. 21) to meet the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. T
he 14th coach in PSC's women's basketball history, dating back to the 1920s when it was known as Plymouth Normal School, Lavigne takes over for Marti Kingsley, who coached the team the past three seasons. Lavigne, the head coach at Endicott College the past two years, is well-known to Panther women's basketball fans, having played for PSC from 1990-94 and served as an assistant coach in 1995-96.
Lavigne welcomes back 11 veterans to this year's squad, including four starters from last year's 11-13 team. They hope to lead PSC to the post-season for the first time since the 1994-95 unit participated in the NCAA Tournament under former coach Nancy Feldman. The Panthers have only one home game this semester, against Rivier College on Monday, Dec. 7th.
1998-99 PSC WOMEN'S BASKETBALL PREVIEW
The 11 veterans provide plenty of depth, and there are some promising newcomers, but it is Coach Lavigne that brings a renewed sense of excitement to the team.
"Our goals for the season are to finish in the top three in the Little East Conference, and to host a first round game in the LEC play-offs," said Lavigne. "This year it's going to be tough for us because we're on the road so much."
The Panthers play only nine of their 24 regular season games at Foley Gymnasium. There's the six-game road trip to open the season, and two other three game road swings next semester. The longest home stand, three games, occurs over the school's Winterim Break. Lavigne expects the offense will concentrate on pushing the ball down court and will run multiple motion offenses to keep opposing defenses off guard.
Leading the way for the Panthers this season are senior captains Rebecca Morse (Sterling, MA) and Brenna Matarazzo (Salem, NH). Morse, a center/forward who has been a starter since her freshman year, led the team with 11.6 points and 8.7 rebounds last season. She needs just 224 points to eclipse the 1,000-point mark. She was Honorable Mention All-LEC last year after finishing second in the league in rebounding and fifth in blocked shots (24). Matarazzo averaged 5.8 points last season and will provide a spark at both ends of the court. She likely will come off the bench this season, and can play both guard spots.
"Rebecca and Brenna have been outstanding leaders from day one," said Lavigne, who was an assistant coach at PSC the year the two captains were freshmen. "Rebecca is a force inside, she's a solid gamer. She has the "And One" mentality in her and she's going to go inside and draw the foul. Brenna is a great floor general, and a real natural leader."
Look for the starting backcourt to be the junior tandem of Courtney Jacques (Belmont, NH) and Lynn Hersey (Dexter, ME). Jacques averaged 9.5 points last season in her first year as a starter, and led the team with 53 assists and 44 steals. Hersey drilled 26 three-pointers last year while averaging 6.3 points a game.
Rounding out the probable starting five are sophomore forwards Krystyna Zagorski (Cliffwood Beach, NJ) and Kate Fillion (Littleton, NH). A three-time Little East Conference Rookie of the Week, Zagorski averaged 6.6 points and 6.0 boards, and ranked 13th in the league in rebounds. She also led the team in field goal percentage, shooting at a .466 clip. Fillion led the team last season with 37 three-pointers and ranked second in the conference in three-point shooting percentage (.356). She was third on the team with a 7.4 scoring average.
"Krystyna is a great compliment to Rebecca because Morse plays a completely different game in the post. Morse is more of a blue-collar, take-it-right-at-you player, while Krystyna is more of a finesse player. She may look frail and thin, but she's lightning quick and is very strong when she gets the ball in the post. We've worked on improving Fillion's range. Last year she was more of a spot-up three kind of shooter, she just floated around the perimeter. She's really worked on her penetration and her short-range shooting."
The team will be helped by an exceptional bench, which, according to Lavigne, will be as strong as her first five. She said "we're not going to skip a beat when we put our second five in. We won't be losing a thing when we sub."
Providing strong defense and capable scoring for Lavigne in the frontcourt is the trio of Jess Shapiro (Windsor Locks, CT), Ange Picard (Hollis, NH) and Lauren Santoli (Mansfield, MA). Shapiro ranked sixth in the LEC in rebounding last season with an average of 7.2 per game, adding 6.9 points an outing and 31 steals.
Santoli didn't play for the Panthers last season, but averaged seven points a game as a freshman two years ago. Picard also sat out last season, but showed promise in 17 games in 1996-97.
Rounding out the squad are sophomore center Mandy Green (Sanbornton, NH), sophomore guard Laura LaVallee (Lincoln, ME), and freshmen guards Brooke Randall (Harrisville, RI), Tammi Waters (Wilmington, VT), and Megan Fournier (E. Waterboro, ME).
Lavigne, who is also coordinator of PSC's NCAA/CHAMPS Program for student-athletes, is joined on the staff by assistant coach Andy Rup, who was an assistant under Lavigne at Endicott last season.
-- 30 --