PLYMOUTH, N.H. - What a difference a year can make.
The 1997 version of the Plymouth State College women's lacrosse team suffered from a lack of experience, and while improvement and confidence were beginning to emerge, the Panthers stumbled to a 3-14 record.
A year later, those inexperienced underclassmen had gained the lacrosse knowledge and experience, and head coach Wynn Hohlt brought in more and more players with high school lacrosse experience. That resulted in a remarkable turnaround for PSC, as the Panthers generated a 9-7 record in 1998, the most wins in six seasons under Hohlt.
The 1998 campaign also marked the debut of the New England Women's Lacrosse Alliance, a 10-team conference divided into two divisions. PSC was one of three teams to post 8-1 NEWLA records in the inaugural campaign (New England College and Eastern Connecticut were the other two), and the Panthers won a first-round NEWLA play-off game before losing to NEC in the divisional final.
"When you look at our schedule, and see that five of our losses were to Williams, Bowdoin, Bates, Colby and Middlebury," said Hohlt, "you realize that we had a pretty good season. In all nine of our wins, we were the dominant team and that is reflected by the score. We were disappointed in the two losses at NEC, first in the regular season and then in the play-offs."
The season also marked the finale for Hohlt, who has coached both field hockey and women's lacrosse at PSC the past six years. She announced in April that she would be leaving at the end of the season to coach the same sports at Bates College.
"That made our team want to win more," said Hohlt. "They were faced with the recognition that this was the last season not only for a large number of seniors, but the last season for ‘our team' as we knew it. That, coupled with the success in the NEWLA gave them more motivation to win."
The Panthers had a very balanced scoring attack, with three players all scoring more than 40 goals. PSC hadn't had a player score 30 goals the past three seasons. The Panthers nearly doubled last year's goal total, finding the back of the net 200 times in 16 games in 1998 after scoring just 105 goals in 17 outings in 1997.
"We've had both individual improvement and team improvement," said Hohlt. "Some of these athletes are just now coming into their own. For many of them it is their third or fourth year of playing lacrosse. It takes playing experience and practice experience to mature into a player, and a number of players reached that point this season. They looked and felt more comfortable, and they had more success; this made the team improvement inevitable."
Leading the way was the trio of seniors Carrie Killeen (Greenfield, MA) and Danielle Paradis (Londonderry, NH) and sophomore Amanda Beedy (New Hampton, NH), who were all named to the All-Alliance Team. Paradis and Killeen tied for the team goal-scoring lead with 44 apiece, and Beedy contributed 42 scores. Paradis and Beedy shared the team lead with 21 assists, as all three players finished with more than 50 points.
Those three have also made their marks on PSC's all-time scoring list. Killeen and Paradis finish their four-year careers fifth and seventh, respectively, on the career chart, Killeen with 138 points (106 goals, 32 assists) and Paradis with 104 points (68 goals, 36 assists). Beedy is tied for 13th with her 63 points, after only one year in a Panther uniform. They were all part of what was clearly the most talented team in Hohlt's tenure.
The Panthers also got offense from veterans Kate Stroh (Cortland, NY) and Molly Foster (Canandaigua, NY) and freshmen Chrystn Pitt (Freeport, ME) and Courtney O'Sullivan (Kingston, NH). Stroh contributed a career-high 25 goals, and wrapped up a solid four-year career with 71 goals and 83 points, 11th on PSC's all-time scoring list. Foster was third on the team in assists (15 goals, 13 assists), and moved into 18th on the career scoring list with a year to play. Pitt scored 10 goals and six assists as a midfield starter, and O'Sullivan came off the bench to add 10 goals of her own.
PSC was also strong on the defensive side of the field, led by junior All-Alliance selection Samantha Guthrie (Falmouth, MA). Guthrie posted team-highs of 73 ground ball pick-ups and 37 caused turnovers, along with 12 draw controls. She anchored a defense that, along with classmates Faith Wahlen (Hampstead, NH) and Phedra Hamilton (Rindge, NH) and sophomores Jessica Shapiro (Windsor Locks, CT) and Rene Grasso (Billerica, MA), reduced the number of goals allowed from 228 to 162. Solid reserves included junior Erin Fitzgerald (Mansfield, CT) and sophomore Allison Beaumier (Dover, NH).
In the Panther net, Hohlt turned to junior Brenna Matarazzo (Salem, NH) and freshman Lisa Goldberg (Newton, MA). Matarazzo, in her first season of lacrosse, enjoyed success against PSC's weaker opponents, particularly early in the season when Goldberg was injured. She posted a 5-0 record, an 8.36 goals against average and a .551 saves percentage, and earned All-NEWLA honors. Goldberg, the more experienced goalie, got the nod against PSC's stronger opponents, so her numbers weren't as strong (4-7, 11.61 gaa, .512 svs. pct.).
The Panthers also had several players who mostly played junior varsity, but saw action in a limited number of varsity contests. That group includes sophomores Nancy Davis (Plymouth, NH) and Kelley Mitchell (Center Barnstead, NH) and freshmen Keri Strobel (Niskayuna, NY), Tina Hamilton (West Brattleboro, VT), Alicia Hoffman (Hancock, NH), Jill Frechette (Sanford, ME), Andrea Bernard (Sanford, ME), Michelle Morch (Southampton, NY), Kelly Curran (Forestdale, MA) and Anna Jean (Manchester, NH).
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