PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University women's basketball team will play seven of its first eight games on the road this year, beginning with the season debut next Tuesday, Nov. 18, at non-conference foe Salem State College (6:00 p.m.)
The Panthers will participate in the Babson Invitational Tournament next weekend, Nov. 21-22, and will visit Castleton on Tuesday, Nov. 25, before the home opener against Colby-Sawyer College on Tuesday, Dec. 2.
PSU opens the Little East Conference portion of the schedule on Dec. 6 at pre-season favorite Eastern Connecticut. The only other home game of the first half of the season is a Dec. 13 meeting at Foley Gymnasium against LEC opponent Western Connecticut.
Plymouth State will play a competitive 25-game schedule this season, including 14 Little East affairs. The LEC Tournament begins the last week of February, with a champion being crowned on Feb. 28 and receiving an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Tournament.
2008-09 PSU Women's Basketball Outlook
Led by 11th-year head coach Lauren Lavigne, the Panthers posted a five-game improvement last season. Coach Lavigne hopes the team can keep the momentum going.
"We have a small, close-knit team, by far the smallest roster I've ever had," said Lavigne (right), "and I think it's helped. It has given everyone more attention in practice and more reps. We've been able to develop a rapport or chemistry with our different combinations."
The Panther roster of 12 includes four newcomers and eight returning players, including two starters. An unfortunate preseason injury to one of the top returning players, junior Karly Gray (Southampton, Mass./Williston Northampton), a two-year starter, was a setback. Gray has averaged nine points a game the past two years but will miss this season.
"It's unfortunate for Karly and our team," said Lavigne. "We all feel for her; she will still be a part of our team. But injuries are part of sports. We will have to adjust, and this will open up time for someone else to step up."
Leading the group of returnees is senior co-captain Kayla Morin (Pascoag, R.I./Burrillville). The strong-shooting forward led the team with 9.6 points per game last season, and shot an impressive 41.1 percent from three-point range for the season (30-of-73).
"She came on last year and became our top scorer," said Lavigne. "Her three-point shooting will open up our low-post game."
The interior game for the Panthers will be handled by junior Laura Kent (Bellingham, Mass.) and sophomore Amanda Kania (Manchester, N.H./West). Kent has continued to improve and averaged 8.5 points and 5.6 rebounds last season while shooting 48 percent from the field; Kania was named to the LEC All-Rookie team last year after averaging 9.2 points and 4.9 rebounds in a solid freshman campaign.
"When Laura Kent plays well, we win," said Lavigne. "I'm not sure why that is, but it seems to be true. And Amanda is so athletic and so strong, and she can shoot from both the inside and the outside."
Senior co-captain Sam Naas (South Hero, Vt./South Burlington) is an extremely hard worker and can provide valuable minutes off the Panther bench in the frontcourt.
Junior Kalie Judd (Peabody, Mass./Veterans Memorial) should take over the point guard role after coming off the bench last season. She's an excellent athlete who can handle the role, according to Lavigne. Classmates Gretchen Fritch (South Boston, Mass./Fontbonne Academy) and Katie Sunderland (Londonderry, N.H.) should also see regular playing time at the guard position.
Freshman forward Alicia Doucet (Manchester, N.H./Central) has been impressive in the preseason and looks like the top Panther newcomer. Freshman point guard Michaela Galvin (Windham, N.H./Salem) could also become a factor, according to Lavigne. Round out the roster is sophomore guard Liz Whalley (North Hampton, N.H./Winnacunnet), freshman center Emily Johnson (Manchester, N.H./Central) and freshman guard Kristen Cournoyer (Enfield, Conn./Loomis Chaffee).
"I know it's a cliché, but we're taking it one game at a time," said Lavigne. "We want to be competitive in the Little East,, and we want to host a first-round play-off game. That's a start toward our goal of winning the Little East Conference."
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