PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University women's lacrosse team will have its hands full this weekend when it opens the season with a pair of road games in Wellesley, Mass., at Babson College and Wellesley College.
The Panthers will open the season Friday at 4:00 p.m. at Babson, which finished 16-3 last year and is ranked 11th in this year's Division III pre-season national poll. PSU will come back on Saturday with a 12 noon contest at Wellesley, which finished last year with a 10-8 record.
Plymouth State is looking to bounce back from a rebuilding season a year ago. The Panthers have 12 veterans returning and a strong group of newcomers who have been working hard in anticipation of the team making a comeback this season.
PSU will make its annual spring break trip to Florida the third week of March, where the Panthers will play a pair of games, Monday (Mar. 16) against Merrimack College and Friday (Mar. 20) vs. rival Keene State College. There are 10 contests back in New England after spring break, including six Little East Conference affairs.
The regular season wraps up the last week of April, and the annual LEC Tournament begins Tuesday, Apr. 28. The conference champion will be crowned on May 2, and will receive an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
2009 PSU Women's Lacrosse Outlook
The Panthers missed the Little East Conference Tournament for the first time last spring, and while third-year head coach Abi Jackson would just as soon forget last season, some good came out of the struggles.
"The one positive from last year was the game experience all of our young players got," said Jackson (right). "We had graduated so many players from the year before, and we were so young and inexperienced. Now those players are veterans and won't have the game jitters like some of them had last year."
Jackson says the difficult season has also provided plenty of motivation for this year's group.
"We have the memories of getting run over by some teams," said Jackson, "so we've been working extremely hard to avoid that again. We know what to expect from our opponents. We have a new level on intensity in practice and a new work ethic and skill level."
Junior midfielder Kalie Judd (Peabody, Mass./Veterans Memorial), an All-LEC First Team selection last year, returns as one of the top players. She has outstanding game-sense and athleticism, according to Jackson, and her work ethic makes her a team leader.
"She's the type of student-athlete every coach wants to coach," said Jackson. "She's an excellent athlete and just works so hard. She follows in a line of outstanding midfielders we've had at Plymouth State."
Among the veterans joining Judd in the midfield are juniors Taylor Cambal (West Yarmouth, Mass./Tabor Academy) and Kerry D'Ambroise (Lowell, Mass.). Cambal is a two-year starter who has scored 52 career goals, while D'Ambroise stepped in the starting lineup last spring and scored 14 goals. Jackson says a strong group of newcomers includes freshmen Nicole Grover (Yarmouth, Maine/Yarmouth), Brianna Davis (Framingham, Mass./Framingham), Jenn Foley (Tewksbury, Mass.) and Michelle Leonard (Hopkinton, Mass.)
The Panthers have several players at attack that will be looking to contribute to the offense. Senior Sarah Bryant (Arrowsic, Maine/Morse) and sophomore Kathryn Rogers (Wolfeboro, N.H./Kingswood) have continued to improve with experience, and freshmen Kayla Nielsen (Gorham, Maine/Gorham), Paige Tollner (Nashua, N.H./Nashua North), Jill Gerzabek (Branford, Conn./Branford) and Eve Scofield (Camden, Maine/Camden Hills Regional) are promising newcomers.
Jackson will look to senior Melissa Dark (Peterborough, N.H./ConVal), junior Selina Mazzola (Hollis, N.H./Hollis-Brookline), sophomore Michaela Rice (Weirs Beach, N.H./Laconia) and sophomore transfer Britney Chiles (North Andover, Mass./North Andover) to hold down the Panther defense in the midfield area. Senior Kate Pacheco (Salem, N.H.), juniors Maggie Joyce (Tewksbury, Mass.) and Rhiannon Groff (Nashua, N.H./North) are returning veteran line defenders, along with senior Amanda Kreamer (Lynn, Mass./Lynn English).
"Just about everyone we have on defense is experienced," said Jackson. "They have a deeper sense of what I expect from them and the fundamentals of successful defense."
PSU has a pair of freshman goalies. Ally Baribault (Middle Haddam, Conn./Hebron Academy, Maine) is recovering from an injury suffered during ice hockey season, while Nicole Provencher (Guilford, Conn./Guilford) is handling the job for now.
Jackson says the team is much improved this year, with more speed and talent in the midfield and skilled players on offense. The defense is strengthened by experience.
"We'll be looking to move the ball much better," said Jackson. "Turnovers killed us last year, and we'll be able to cut way down on those this year and really be able to excel."
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