Trip to Texas highlights Panthers' spring campaign
PLYMOUTH, N.H. – With March now upon us, the Plymouth State University women's lacrosse team is set to get the spring season underway next week with a tough non-conference game at Springfield College.
The Panthers will visit the Pride next Wednesday, Mar. 7, in Springfield, Mass., for the 2012 debut, followed by another non-conference match-up the following Wednesday, Mar. 14, at Worcester State University.
|Head Coach Kristin Blanchette|
A highlight to this year's schedule comes during the school's Spring Break (Mar. 17-25), when the Panthers will travel to Texas to face the University of Dallas and Pacific University (Ore.) PSU played Pacific, a team which is guided by former PSU head coach Wynne Lobel, last year in Oregon.
A special event will occur for the Panthers' game vs. UMass Dartmouth on Saturday, Apr. 7. The contest will be played at Southern New Hampshire University in Manchester and is billed as Salute the Troops Day in honor and support of our military members and families.
Plymouth State will have to become accustomed to being on the road this season, with only two games scheduled for PSU's home turf at Arold Field. Following a string of games around New England in late March and early April, the home opener is slated for Tuesday, Apr. 17, against Keene State.
The Panthers will play 14 regular season games, wrapping up by the end of April, and the annual LEC Tournament begins Tuesday, May 1. The conference champion will be crowned on May 6, and will receive an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
2012 PSU Women's Lacrosse Outlook
The Panthers welcome back eight starters and 12 veterans from last year's squad and third-year head coach Kristin Blanchette is blending in 11 newcomers for what she hopes will be a successful campaign in 2012. PSU is coming off a 7-8 season last year, including a 2-4 mark in the Little East Conference.
"We have an entirely different make-up than the past two years," said Blanchette. "Those were rebuilding years; now we have the personnel to compete at the highest level. It's a totally different team."
Blanchette says while the strength of the team comes from the leadership and experience of the upperclassmen, the newcomers possess outstanding skill and talent.
"The veterans know what they need to do to be successful, and they're leading the freshmen," said Blanchette, "and the newcomers are pushing the upperclassmen, making them work harder every day, and practices are more competitive."
PSU has a strong group on the defensive half of the field that should be key for the team this season. That starts, said Blanchette, with sophomore goalie Lorin Field, a co-captain who enjoyed a strong rookie season last spring when she ranked second in the LEC in goals against average (10.04) and saves percentage (.519).
"I think she can be the best goalie in the conference," said Blanchette, "and maybe New England. She's playing great right now and she'll be the quarterback of our defense this year."
Blanchette says two other co-captains, senior Nora Regan and junior Kristen Guest, are returning starters and give PSU a strong veteran tandem on defense. Freshman Carly Floyd is also expected to step in and make an immediate impact, according to the coach.
Junior co-captain Caitlin Swanson returns to anchor the Panther midfield unit. Swanson was Second Team All-Region last season after leading the team and ranking third in the conference in scoring with 45 goals and 12 assists. Sophomore Carol Messler will also see plenty of playing time, and Blanchette says there are four freshmen who are ready to step in and contribute – Molly Gleason, Ines Campbell, Brittany Terra and Rachel Fistori.
The offensive group lacks experience, according to Blanchette, but could be one of the most talented units in recent years. The Panthers will likely look to three freshmen to lead the way in Meghan McNabb, Amy McDonald and Shannon Connerty.
Blanchette said the Panthers should be challengers for the upper half of the LEC standings this spring, but it will not be easy.
"There are no 'gimme' games," said the coach. "We will have to compete for 60 minutes in every game; we don't have the luxury to overlook any opponents. The LEC race should be up in the air; our goal is to be in the hunt and I think that's realistic."
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