PLYMOUTH, N.H. - A new era of women's soccer at Plymouth State College begins this weekend when new head coach Rebecca Lisack takes the Panthers on a season-opening road trip to New York.
The Panthers will face SUNY Plattsburgh this Saturday (Sept. 4) at 11 a.m. before returning home for three straight games at Panther Field. The home debut of the 1999 Panthers is next Thursday (Sept. 9) at 7 p.m. against Wheaton College.
PSC will play a challenging 18-game schedule, including seven Little East Conference affairs. The Panthers are out to gain their first LEC Championship since winning seven in a row from 1990-96. The regular season culminates in the inaugural LEC Tournament the last weekend in October, with the winner receiving the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
1999 P.S.C. Women's Soccer Outlook
There may be a new head coach at Plymouth State, but the goals and expectations should remain the same as the Panthers seek to continue as one of the strongest programs in New England.
Lisack joined the Panther staff in April, and is eager to begin what she hopes will be a successful campaign. She welcomes back more than a dozen veterans with varsity experience, including six All-New England standouts, a unit that will be out to help PSC to secure its 17th straight post-season appearance.
"Plymouth State has an excellent tradition," said Lisack, a former three-year starter at James Madison and assistant coach at Allegheny College, "and we want to continue that success. Having such an experienced group of veterans will be a big help in the transition to a new coach."
The Panthers are coming off a 9-7-2 season in '98, finishing third in the Little East Conference with a 5-2 mark and advancing to the ECAC New England Tournament. Lisack hopes the 1999 squad returns to the form that sent PSC to nine straight NCAA Tournaments from 1986-94, and again in 1997.
"With the new automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament," said Lisack, "our primary goal is to win the Little East Conference and get the automatic bid. From what I've seen so far, it looks like we can go pretty far. Our biggest competition will come from Western Connecticut and Southern Maine. Keene State will also be tough, but they lost nine starters."
The PSC offense should have plenty of firepower with the return of senior Caitlin Cook (Cutchogue, NY) and junior Carrie Poulin (Westfield, Mass.) Cook led the team in scoring with 10 goals last season en route to All-New England honors, and is already one of the top 10 scorers in school history. Poulin had a sensational freshman season with a school-record 22 goals and earning Second Team All-America honors, but suffered a season-ending injury in the third game of last year. The Panthers also have an experienced returnee in sophomore Jill Wolters (Vernon, NJ) and newcomers Sandra Petlick (Newcastle, NH) and Jodi Theriault (Portland, ME) look like the "freshmen to watch."
Senior co-captains Erin Pepe (Franklin, Mass.) and Tara Dickson (Sussex, NJ) give PSC a veteran duo in the middle of the field. Pepe has been a fixture in the midfield since her sophomore year, using her excellent speed and skills, while Dickson has been a starter since her freshman campaign, playing on both ends of the field. She led the team in scoring as a freshman striker, played mostly midfield as a sophomore, and was an All-Conference defender last season.
Other returnees who could log playing time in the midfield include fifth-year senior Faith Wahlen (Hampstead, NH), sophomore Beth Dooly (Manchester, NH) and junior Melanie Jones (Bradford, NH), who rejoins the team after a year off.
Senior Jackie Blanchard (Plymouth, Mass.) and junior Mary Young (Rockland, MA) are the only two returning to the defensive unit. Blanchard earned All-New England honors in '97, and Young did the same last fall. Lisack will have to blend in new people to stabilize the defense.
PSC's biggest question mark entering the season is at the goalkeeper spot, where the only returnee, Becky Kennedy (West Springfield, Mass.) has only 33 minutes of varsity experience. A couple of newcomers could also challenge for the job.
"We might have to move some people around," said Lisack. "With a new coach, no one's locked into their position. We're going to put our best 11 players out there."
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