PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Plymouth State University will be seeking its fifth consecutive women's lacrosse conference championship in 2004, and its third straight Little East Conference title.
The Panthers take their first step of the season this Saturday with a 12:00 p.m. non-conference match-up at MIT. It's the only contest for PSU before the team heads to California for a pair of games during the school's spring break the fourth week of March.
Plymouth State returns to New England for a pair of road games, including the Little East debut at Western Connecticut on Apr. 3. The home opener at Arold Field is Sunday, Apr. 4, against Bridgewater State.
The Panthers are coming off a 14-3 season in 2003, which ended with the LEC and ECAC titles. This year the LEC Champion receives an automatic berth into the NCAA Division III Tournament.
"We want to work hard, have fun, play as a team, and learn from every experience," says head coach Wynne Lobel. "Because we're so young, we'll need to continue learning about each other's styles, communicating and working as a group."
2004 PSU Women's Lacrosse Outlook
The Panthers captured New England Women's Lacrosse Alliance trophies in 2000 and 2001, LEC titles in 2002 and 2003, and the ECAC New England Championship in 2003.
This year's Panther team wants to keep the streak going, and it appears they have the tools to do so. There are 10 returning veterans, including five All-conference selections, joined by 13 newcomers for what Lobel says will be a very different team from last season.
"With so many new players, we'll have a different look," says Lobel. "We're very well balanced, and our strength is our depth. There's very little drop off from top to bottom on our roster."
Leading the way for the Panthers are senior co-captains Katie Sheridan (West Sayville, N.Y.) and Michelle Norton (Sandwich, Mass.), two of the top 10 scorers in school history. Sheridan, the two-time LEC Offensive Player of the Year, is PSU's all-time leading scorer with 191 goals, including a remarkable 84 last season. Norton, a two-time All-LEC pick, is 10th on the PSU career scoring list with 77 goals.
Other Panthers who will provide offensive support from the midfield include freshmen Kelsey MacDonald (Oak Bluffs, Mass.) and Liz Boddy (Brentwood, N.H.) and senior Jill Matteson (Chatham, Mass.).
PSU has a solid group of attack players, led by sophomore Bethany Brown (Norwich, Conn.), who was the LEC Rookie of the Year last season after scoring 46 goals. Freshman SeaSea Fuhrman (Lakewood, Col.) and sophomore transfer Nicole Evans (Scituate, Mass.) are also expected to make solid contributions this spring. Sophomore Caitlyn Irving (Avon, Conn.) and freshmen Meg Cupoli (Southboro, Mass.) and Annie Pinault (Framingham, Mass.) could also see playing time.
The Panthers have had strong defensive units in the recent past, and this year should be no different. Plymouth State allowed only two teams to reach double digits in scoring last season, and none over the last 14 games. While the team will have to overcome to graduation of All-Conference picks Julie Shields and Beth Dooly, PSU can rely on senior Cathy Berei (Pennington, N.J.) and sophomore Meghan O'Neil (Scituate, Mass.), who both earned All-LEC honors in 2003. Other key defenders are freshmen Steph Blanchette (Sudbury, Mass.) and Arianne Aucoin (Whitby, Ont.) and strong defensive midfield play should come from junior Katie O'Donnell (Plymouth, N.H.), sophomore Hillary Arthur (Essex Jct., Vt.) and freshman Amanda Spadafora (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.).
The key to the defense, though, could be senior Carmen Villanueva (East Schodack, N.Y.), the LEC Defensive Player of the Year in 2003. Villanueva has a 22-4 career record, and was the Most Outstanding Player in last year's ECAC Championship game. She will be backed up by junior Kristin Elliott (Exeter, N.H.) and freshmen Karen Desmond (Concord, N.H.) and Suzie Lilakos (Stratham, N.H.).
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