PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University women's lacrosse team is scheduled to open the 2005 season this Saturday at 12 p.m. with a non-conference game at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
The game will mark the official debut of new Panther head coach Paula Habel, who took over last fall for Wynne Lobel, who left to become the head coach at Bryant University. Habel is a former captain and All-Star at Bridgewater State who was an assistant coach last season at Stonehill College.
PSU will play its first six games on the road, including two during a spring break trip to West Palm Beach, Fla., before the home opener the first week in April. PSU has a 15-game regular season slate on tap, including six Little East Conference games. The annual LEC Tournament is the first week in May, with the winner receiving an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.
After posting one of the best seasons in school history in 2004, including victories in its first 17 games, a fifth straight conference championship and a visit to the NCAA regional final, Plymouth State will be hard-pressed to match lasts year's success. Habel says the team is determined to build on the program's recent success.
2005 PSU Women's Lacrosse Outlook
The Panther return 15 veterans who have gained outstanding college experience, including four LEC All-Stars. PSU will have to overcome the loss of three of the top players in school history - midfielders Katie Sheridan and Michelle Norton and goalie Carmen Villanueva.
"Although we lost those seniors, we have a lot of strong players returning," said Habel. "We have seven solid people in each end of the field that can do the job. We should be a more balanced team, and I think we have more depth."
While the loss of Sheridan and Norton hurts the offense, Habel says there is plenty of firepower. Junior attack Bethany Brown (Norwich, Conn.) has scored 98 goals in her first two seasons and is a two-time LEC All-Star. A pair of midfielders, junior Nicole Evans (Scituate, Mass.) and sophomore Kelsey MacDonald (Oak Bluffs, Mass.), will also have a big impact on the offense; Evans earned All-LEC honors after recording 26 goals and 19 assists last season, while MacDonald scored 28 goals and collected a team-high 82 ground balls. Sophomore midfielder Meg Cupoli (Southboro, Mass.) returns after finishing second on the team with 23 assists.
Junior Caitlyn Irving (Avon, Conn.) and sophomores Liz Boddy (Brentwood, N.H.) and Annie Pinault (Framingham, Mass.) will look for starting roles on attack after coming off the bench last season. Freshman Ashley Murphy (Stratham, N.H.) or sophomore Karen Desmond (Concord, N.H.), a former goalie, could also help out.
Sophomore Amanda Spadafora (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.), an All-LEC defender last season, will contribute on both ends of the field this season. She could be joined at defensive midfield by junior Hillary Arthur (Essex Jct., Vt.) and newcomer Allison Frobey (Sandy Hook, Conn.). Senior Kate O'Donnell (Plymouth, N.H.) and freshman Jackie Connerty (Nashua, N.H.) could also see playing time.
Junior Meghan O'Neil (Scituate, Mass.), a two-time All-LEC selection, anchors a strong Panther defensive unit. She will be joined by sophomore Steph Blanchette (Sudbury, Mass.), who had a solid rookie campaign, and freshman Jenna Kelly (Wayne, Pa.), who has looked good in pre-season.
The replacement of Villanueva in goal is a question mark, and will be a tough battle, according to Habel, between senior Kristin Elliott (Exeter, N.H.) and sophomore Suzie Lilakos (Stratham, N.H.). They will likely push each other all season, and both will get chances to prove themselves.
"We want to contend for the Little East Conference championship," said Habel. "We want to build on what has been accomplished here in the past. I love the work ethic that's here. I can't wait to see what we can do. It'll be exciting."
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