PLYMOUTH, N.H. - A new season for the Plymouth State University women's basketball team begins this weekend when the Panthers compete in the Swarthmore College Tip-Off Tournament in Pennsylvania.
The Panthers will face the University of Mary Washington (Va.) in the second game of the tourney Friday at 8:00 p.m., following the Swarthmore vs. Immaculata (Pa.) match-up at 6:00 p.m. The consolation game is slated for 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, with the championship battle to follow at 8:00 p.m.
Plymouth State has done fairly well in season-opening tourneys in recent years. The Panthers captured the championship of the MIT Tip-Off Tournament in 1999, the Colby Tip-Off Classic in 2000, and the Swarthmore Tip-Off Tourney in 2001 before being defeated in overtime in the title game of the 2002 Colby Tournament and falling in the championship game in last year's Plattsburgh Cardinal Classic.
PSU will also play in another tournament this season, participating in the Williams Tournament on Jan. 3-4.
Led by seventh-year head coach Lauren Lavigne, Plymouth State will play a competitive 24-game schedule, including 14 Little East Conference affairs, one of the toughest conferences in the country. The first of 10 home contests at Foley Gymnasium is Saturday, Dec. 4, against Rhode Island College. The LEC Tournament begins the last week of February, with a champion being crowned on Feb. 26th and receiving an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Tournament.
2004-05 PSU Women's Basketball Outlook
After a rebuilding season in 2003-04, Plymouth State is ready to contend for the top spot in the Little East Conference again this season. At least that's where Coach Lavigne hopes the Panthers will be by the end of the season.
"I think we'll be a good team, but not necessarily right away," says Lavigne. "We've got a couple of key returnees out right now with injuries, and we have six freshmen playing significant roles. So it may take us a little while to come together as a team. The sooner we can get everyone healthy and playing together, and when the freshmen and sophomores get some experience, I think we can challenge for the championship."
PSU finished 10-16 overall last season and 4-10 in conference games, but that was after losing four starters from a team that went 84-33 over the previous four years. Lavigne expects an improved squad this season.
"We're already a better team than we were at the end of last year," says Lavigne. "We return the bulk of the team and we have a strong group of freshmen. We're much, much better defensively, and I can't stress that enough."
A weakness of last year's team was the lack of a true point guard, according to Lavigne, but that won't be a problem this season. The Panthers have two freshmen from the Granite State who can both handle the role in Joy DePalo (Enfield, N.H./Mascoma) and Meghan MacDonald (Salem, N.H.).
"They're both extremely quick and outstanding defenders," says Lavigne. "We didn't have a point guard last year, and now we have two. That is a strength for us now."
The Panthers have a number of players who will rotate in the shooting guard/small forward positions. Senior co-captain Betsy Oswalt (Jaffrey, N.H./Conant), the leading returning scorer from last season (9.7 ppg), is a good perimeter player and good defender, but is still coming off an early season injury. Sophomores Colleen Mahoney (North Attleboro, Mass.) and Ashley White (Merrimack, N.H.) are back after picking up valuable playing experience as freshmen, and White is fully recovered from injuries that cost her 12 games last season. Senior Megan Kane (Portsmouth, N.H.) is a two-year veteran who should see regular playing time, and freshman Steph Ginn (Cumberland, Maine) will be looking to crack the line-up.
Senior co-captain Lauren Devereaux (Hope Valley, R.I.) leads the cast of inside players. She is consistently solid in all areas, according to Lavigne, and quietly does the job. She is the second-leading scorer (8.5 ppg) and leading rebounder (5.9 rpg) among the returnees.
Joining Devereaux in the frontcourt rotation will be juniors Katie Susat (Glastonbury, Conn.) and Mary Krumm (Dover, N.H.) and sophomores Heather Thomas (Merrimack, N.H.) and Kaitlin Linehan (Boston, Mass./Savio Prep). Susat is a returning starter, and Krumm was a key player before a broken foot knocked her out for the season. Thomas was a pleasant surprise as the top rookie last season, providing valuable minutes off the Panther bench, and Linehan is a strong shooter and the best post passer on the team. Freshman Sadie Hardiman (Loudon, N.H./Bishop Brady) will also look to make an impact.
Rounding out the roster are freshman reserve guards Jill Bixby (Greenville, R.I./St. Andrew's) and Holly Duhamel (Belmont, N.H.) and sophomore guard Kelsey McBride (Brookline, N.H.).
-- 30 --