PLYMOUTH, N.H. - There will be a new face on the sideline this Saturday when the Plymouth State University women's lacrosse team opens up the 2007 campaign with a non-conference game at Babson College (1:00 p.m.)
The Panthers are led by head coach Abi Jackson, a former All-New England goalie at Williams College who is in her first year at Plymouth State. She took over from Paula Habel, who left after two successful seasons to become assistant women's lacrosse coach at Ohio University.
Jackson (right) takes over a program that has experienced a tremendous amount of success this decade. The Panthers, who have made the post-season the past seven years, won the Little East Conference championship in 2006 and advanced to the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.
PSU will make its annual Spring Break trip to Florida from March 16-24, where they will play games against Fredonia State (N.Y.), Allegheny College (Pa.) and Franklin Pierce College. The first of the 11 contests back in New England are slated for the last week of March, with PSU hosting Springfield and Western Connecticut on the turf field at nearby Holderness, N.H.
The first home game at Arold Field is scheduled for Saturday, April 7, against Little East Conference rival Eastern Connecticut State University. The regular season wraps up the last week of April, and the annual LEC Tournament is the first week in May, with the winner receiving an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
PSU finished with a 13-6 overall record last season and made its fourth NCAA appearance in seven years (2000, 2001, 2004, 2006). The Panthers also made ECAC New England Tournament appearances in 2002, 2003 and 2005, winning the championship twice (2003, 2005).
2007 PSU Women's Lacrosse Outlook
The Panthers have 13 returning veterans with plenty of regular season and post-season experience, and Jackson thinks this year's team can launch a strong campaign this season.
"The expectations are high, considering our performance the past several years," said Jackson. "But we will have to prove ourselves. We have to focus on meshing as a team. We want this team to establish its own identity and not be compared to previous teams."
PSU has five seniors and two juniors who are returning starters and should be the leaders of the team. Senior midfielder Kelsey MacDonald (Oak Bluffs, Mass.) is a top player in the LEC, earning Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2005 and Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2006. She is one of the school's all-time scoring leaders, and one of the national leaders in draw controls and ground balls.
Senior midfielders Amanda Spadafora (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.) and Meg Cupoli (Southboro, Mass.) and junior defender Steph Blanchette (Duxbury, Mass./Lincoln-Sudbury) are also returning All-Conference selections. Seniors Liz Boddy (Brentwood, N.H.) and Annie Pinault (Framingham, Mass.) and junior defender Jackie Connerty (Nashua, N.H.) are also returning starters who have been key contributors the past three seasons.
Other Panthers who are likely to see significant minutes, according to Jackson, include sophomores Sarah Bryant (Arrowsic, ME/Morse), Melissa Dark (Peterborough, N.H./ConVal) and Cassidy Barry (Branford, Conn./Mercy). Freshman Taylor Cambal (West Yarmouth, Mass./Tabor Academy) is the top newcomer and should be an offensive threat.
Junior Suzie Lilakos (Stratham, N.H./Exeter) returns as starting goalie after sitting out last season. She will be backed up by freshman Morgan Lemmon (Gilford, N.H./Bishop Brady).
"We've been doing a lot of fitness, and the upperclassmen are setting an excellent example of hard work," said Jackson. "Offensively, we should be very strong; we have a lot of players who know how to score and are explosive to the goal. We won't be hurting defensively, but our challenge will be to adjust to a different style of defense. If we can master that, we will be successful."
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