PLYMOUTH, N.H. - After two consecutive years of settling for an ECAC post-season bid, Plymouth State College's women's soccer team has returned to the NCAA national championship in 1997. The Panthers, who completed the regular season with eight straight wins and a 15-2 overall record, have received the No. 1 seed in the New England region, and will host the regional championship at Panther Field this weekend (Nov. 8-9).
Plymouth State participated in the first nine NCAA Tournaments from 1986-94, advancing to the Final Four five times ('86, '87, '89, '91, '93). This year's appearance marks the first NCAA bid for PSC under third-year coach Marti Kingsley.
PSC will play in the opening match Saturday at 10:30 a.m. at Panther Field, hosting the winner of Wednesday's game between Bates and Colby. The #2 and #3 seeds, Bowdoin and Middlebury, will battle Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Panther Field, with Saturday's winners meeting Sunday at 12 noon for the regional title.
"We are profoundly happy at making the NCAAs, because that was our goal and anytime that you reach a goal, it fills a space inside," said Kingsley. "It reinforces the mindset that you can accomplish what you strive for, if you do the right things to prepare."
All four teams will bring outstanding records into the weekend. PSC is 15-2, Bowdoin is 10-3-1, Middlebury is 11-3, Bates is 9-5, and Colby is 8-5.
"I think being at home is an advantage, in that it's familiar surroundings," added Kingsley. "We'll certainly benefit from fan support, but the level of competitive spirit would be the same no matter where we play. I'm sure the teams coming in here won't care where they play, they're happy to be here. We're going to keep that in perspective as we have done all year. We're going to try to win playing with skill, passion and teamwork."
PSC has a 2-0 record this season against teams in the tournament. The Panthers defeated Colby 2-1 in Plymouth on Sept. 30th, and knocked off Bowdoin 3-0 in Brunswick, ME, on Oct. 15th.
The Panthers are led by senior co-captains Paula Dudley (Windham, NH) and Cece Glover (Hanover, NH), who along with sophomore back Jackie Blanchard (Plymouth, MA), anchor a PSC defense that allowed just 11 goals in 17 games.
The offense is led by freshman sensation Carrie Poulin (Westfield, MA), the Little East Conference scoring leader who has tied a school record with 20 goals this season. She scored at least two goals in a game six times this season, tying the mark of 20 goals set by Mary-Bridget Pawlik in 1992, when she was named National Player of the Year.
Other top players for PSC include sophomore forward Caitlin Cook (Cutchogue, NY), who has nine goals and four assists, and sophomore midfielders Tara Dickson (Vernon, NJ), Erin Pepe (Franklin, MA) and Melanie Jones (Bradford, NH).
Two other seniors who have contributed to the Panthers are midfielders Chrissy Hickey (Marlboro, MA) and Danielle Paradis (Londonderry, NH).
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