PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Most college athletic teams change from season to season, but it will be a totally new look for the Plymouth State University women's basketball team when the 2003-04 season tips off this weekend at the Plattsburgh State Tournament in upstate New York.
The Panthers will open the new campaign Saturday at 6:00 p.m. against SUNY Old Westbury in the tournament opener. Plattsburgh will face Regis College at 8:00 p.m., and the consolation and championship games are slated for Sunday at 1:00 and 3:00 p.m., respectively.
Plymouth State has fared very well in season-opening tourneys in recent years. 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 before being defeated in overtime in the title game of last year's Colby Tournament.
Led by sixth-year head coach Lauren Lavigne, the Panthers play another competitive 25-game schedule this season, including 14 Little East Conference affairs. The first of 11 home contests at Foley Gymnasium is next Tuesday, Nov. 25, against Castleton State. The LEC Tournament begins the last week of February, with a champion being crowned on Feb. 28th and receiving an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Tournament.
2003-04 PSU Women's Basketball Outlook
Plymouth State is coming off four consecutive 20-win seasons, four straight ECAC post-season berths and the last two ECAC New England Championships. But this season the Panthers will have to overcome the loss of four senior starters -- Courtney Albert, Jenn Pelletier, Whitney Morin, and Heather Adey.
"Those players raised the bar for the success of our program," says Lavigne. "They're not going to be replaced. This year's team doesn't want to lower the bar; we want to continue the excellence set by those four over their careers."
Last year's four seniors combined to score 54.2 of the team's 77.7 points per game, and grab 26.2 of the Panthers' 44.8 rebounds. Together, they scored over 5,000 points in their careers, and combined for an 84-33 record.
"We relied on those four a lot," says Lavigne. "This year's team is a lot deeper, and we're relying on a lot more players so it's a different kind of team make-up. We've taken great pride in our team chemistry this season, and we're a much more disciplined team because we have to be."
Leading the list of returnees are junior forward Betsy Oswalt (Jaffrey, N.H.) and senior guard Mandi Allen (Blue Hill, Maine), who both saw significant playing time last season. Oswalt was the fifth starter a year ago, averaging 6.4 points a game and playing several positions on the court. Allen, one of this year's co-captains, contributed 5.8 points a game and strong defense off the Panther bench.
"Betsy and Mandi are the most experienced players returning," says Lavigne, "and they will see a lot of playing time this season, but they will be surrounded by a strong supporting cast."
Lavigne is excited about the arrival of Ashley White (Merrimack, N.H.), who will likely start at point guard as a freshman. She is smart and composed, according to the coach, and should make an impact. Sophomore Shannon Osterling (Cromwell, Conn.), who saw limited playing time as a freshman, will also log time at point guard, and freshman Colleen Mahoney (North Attleboro, Mass.) will see action at either guard spot.
Other guards who could fit into the rotation include senior co-captains Courtney O'Clair (Stow, Mass.) and Erica Perry (Center Conway, N.H.), and junior Megan Kane (Portsmouth, N.H.).
Sophomore Katie Susat (Glastonbury, Conn.) and junior Lauren Devereaux (Hope Valley, R.I.) are solid returnees in the Panther frontcourt. Susat saw a fair amount of action as a freshman last season, and is looking to take over as a starter this year. Devereaux has continued her steady improvement, and should be a solid contributor to this year's team. Two big additions, according to Lavigne, are junior Mary Krumm (Dover, N.H.), a transfer from Lyndon State (Vt.), and freshman Heather Thomas (Merrimack, N.H.).
Rounding out the roster are freshman forward Kaitlin Linehan (Boston, Mass./Savio Prep) and freshman guard Lisa Silva (Lowell, Mass.).
"We don't have specific goals in terms of number of wins or placing in a certain spot in the conference," says Lavigne. "We don't think that way. We just want to continue to develop and be competitive in every game, no matter who we're playing."
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