PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Plymouth State College will look to its seniors to lead the way when the women's basketball season begins this weekend. The Panthers will make their 2002-03 debut this Friday and Saturday at the Colby Tip-Off Tournament in Waterville, Maine.
PSC will take on Saint Joseph's College (Maine) Friday in the 8:00 p.m. game, following the Colby-Roger Williams contest. The consolation game is Saturday at 1:00 p.m., followed by the championship contest at 3:00 p.m. Plymouth State will be looking for its fourth consecutive season-opening tournament title.
The Panthers won the MIT Tip-Off Tournament in 1999, the Colby Tip-Off Classic in 2000, and the Swarthmore (Pa.) Tip-Off Tourney in 2001. PSC defeated Trinity College and host Swarthmore to win last year's title. Led by fifth-year head coach Lauren Lavigne, the Panthers play another competitive 25-game schedule this season.
The team is headed to the Sunshine State in late December to play Florida Gulf Coast University. The first of 11 home contests at Foley Gym is Tuesday, Dec. 10, against Coast Guard.
The Little East Conference tournament begins the last week of February, with a champion being crowned on Mar. 1st and receiving an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Tournament.
PSC is coming off a 21-8 campaign that matched the school record for victories in a season. The Panthers finished third in the Little East last winter with a 9-5 mark, behind national powers Southern Maine and Eastern Connecticut, the two schools that should again be PSC's biggest obstacles to overcome.
The group of guards Jenn Pelletier (Derry, N.H.) and Whitney Morin (Derby Line, Vt.) and forwards Courtney Albert (Hudson, N.H.) and Heather Adey (Nashua, N.H.) have all made major contributions to the team, and are focused on enjoying a great senior year, according to Lavigne.
"Each year the expectations have risen, and coming off the ECAC title last season, I think they have set their sights high," said Lavigne. "They're all good leaders and outstanding players, and they have a great deal of success under their belts. I think there is some pressure, too, but they don't feel it. They really want to win the first LEC title and get the monkey off our backs."
Pelletier, a 5'4" point guard, and Albert, a 5'9" forward, have received the most accolades of the group, earning All-Conference and All-New England honors. Pelletier averaged 12.1 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4.0 assists last year, while Albert led the team with 16.1 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. Morin, a 5'8" guard who was selected Most Outstanding Player in last year's ECAC Tournament, averaged 12.8 points during the season, and Adey, a 5'11" forward who has earned various LEC weekly honors in her career, contributed 10.5 points and 7.2 rebounds a game last season.
"One of the great things about our seniors is that they play different roles, and they all compliment each other," said Lavigne. "Jenn is the floor general, the vocal leader; she gets everyone else going. Whitney is extremely athletic and very quick, and can take over a game offensively or defensively when she's hot. Courtney is not very big down low, but not at a disadvantage because she always seems to score. Sometimes we're not sure how, but she gets it done. And Heather is consistent down low. She lets everyone else do their thing, and she pulls them all together."
Lavigne is also looking for several of the underclassmen to make contributions. Sophomore Betsy Oswalt (Jaffrey, N.H.) will likely be the fifth starter, as she can play both in the frontcourt and on the perimeter. She gained a lot of confidence after averaging four points in 16 minutes off the bench in a solid freshman campaign.
The Panthers have a lot of depth at the guard position. Lavigne can turn to returning veterans like juniors Mandi Allen (Blue Hill, Maine) and Erica Perry (Center Conway, N.H.) or newcomers such as juniors Kristen Balles (Bedford, N.H.), Brandy Adams (Jaffrey, N.H.) and Courtney O'Clair (Stow, Mass.). Freshmen Shannon Osterling (Cromwell, Conn.) and sophomore Megan Kane (Portsmouth, N.H.) are other guards on the roster.
Help off the bench in the Panther front court should come in the form of sophomore Lauren Devereaux (Hope Valley, R.I.) and freshmen Katie Susat (Glastonbury, Conn.) and Kristen Mando (West Babylon, N.Y.). Devereaux has improved a great deal and will see increased playing time from last year. Junior Sarah Peabody (Raynham, Mass.) could also help out.
"We're not a very big team, and we don't have a big presence inside," admitted Lavigne, "so we will have to figure out ways around that." Lavigne is hoping this is the unit that can get PSC over the hump.