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PSC opens season Saturday at Wheaton

PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Plymouth State College will be out to improve on last year's women's soccer season when the 2002 campaign kicks off this weekend.

The Panthers will open on the road with a key regional battle at Wheaton College Saturday at 2:00 p.m. Then PSC will compete in a regular season tournament at SUNY Plattsburgh on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 14-15, before the home opener on Wednesday, Sept. 18 against Bridgewater State (6:30 p.m.).

PSC is hoping to get off to a strong start on the road before enjoying a stretch of five straight home games and six out of seven in Panther Field in October. The Panthers will play a 16-match regular season schedule, including seven Little East Conference match-ups. The LEC Tournament is slated for the first week of November, with the champion earning an automatic bid to the Division III NCAA Tournament.

2002 PSC Women's Soccer Outlook

Plymouth State returns a dozen veterans while welcoming a host of skilled newcomers in 2002, hoping to bring the team back to the prominence it enjoyed in the 1980s and 1990s.

The Panthers dipped below the .500 mark in 2001, finishing at 7-10-0 overall, but second-year head coach Keith Scarlett is optimistic the team can come together and become solid challengers for the 2002 LEC championship.

"We return key players at every position on the field," said Scarlett. "They know the system and what I expect from them, and what to expect from each other. We have a good group of talented, hard-working players, so we're anticipating a successful season."

The strength of the team lies in the midfield and on the defensive end of the field, where four key starters are returning.

"We should have a strong defensive unit," said Scarlett. "We were playing well last season until injuries hit, and then we had a very good spring season. I'm excited about the group we have back there."

Leading the defenders are a pair of returning starters - senior Katie West (Goffstown, N.H.) and junior Kate Van Tassel (Natick, Mass.). They are two of the team captains and give the Panthers a solid defensive line, according to Scarlett. Graduate student Holly Levesque (Nashua, N.H.), who played for PSC's soccer team in the mid-1990s, will take on the sweeper role and add experience to the defense. "

Katie West is a leader on and off the field, and very vocal, while Kate Van Tassel leads more by example. They'll do the job as well as anyone."

A key to the defense could be the goalkeeper position, where PSC must overcome the loss of three-year starter Becky Kennedy, who's now an assistant coach. Junior Beth Dyer (Hillsboro, N.H.) is the only returnee, but she lacks collegiate game experience and will be challenged by freshman Hayley Quinones (Waitsfield, Vt.).

PSC also has two co-captains to anchor the midfield unit in juniors Cathy Berei (Trenton, N.J.) and Katie Sheridan (West Sayville, N.Y.). Scarlett feels they are as good a one-two punch as any in the conference. Senior Rachel Lewis (Oakland, Maine) and junior Becky Callery (Gill, Mass.) also give the Panthers a veteran presence at midfield, and Scarlett is expecting solid contributions from them.

"Cathy Berei and Katie Sheridan are strong players who give us skill and leadership all over the field," said Scarlett.

Five newcomers will also see plenty of playing time in the midfield - freshmen Melissa Erwin (Newington, Conn.), Kelli Langran (Marlton, N.J.) and Meagen Leenig (East Fishkill, N.Y.) in the middle and freshman Casey Bishop (Topsham, Maine) and sophomore Jennifer Arena (Southboro, Mass.) on the wings. Junior Amy Smith (Gilford, N.H.) and freshman Jenna Beckwith (Richmond, Maine) are also midfielders on the roster.

Leading the offensive unit will be senior Sandra Petlick (New Castle, N.H.),, a Second Team All-LEC performer in 2001 after tying for the team scoring lead. She scored 10 goals last season and has tallied 22 in her career. Petlick will get solid support from sophomores Michelle Dubois (Auburn, Maine) and Jen Sullivan (Waltham, Mass.) and junior Natasha Thorne (Melrose, Mass.). Senior transfer Shawna Brown (Woodsville, N.H.) adds depth to the front line.

"Sandy Petlick is one of the most feared offensive players in New England," said Scarlett. "She is one of the key forwards in the conference that other teams will have trouble contending with. Michelle Dubois came on strong at the end of last season when she got the chance to play, and we're expecting big things from her this fall."

Scarlett thinks PSC will surprise teams this fall, bouncing back from a sub-par campaign.

"We may not have any superstars, but we have a talented, cohesive, hard-working team," he said. "We also feel good about our newcomers. There's no reason this team can't challenge for the Little East Conference title."