PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University women's soccer team hopes to kick start its season Saturday with a victory in the season opener at Panther Field.
The Panthers will host Emmanuel College at 1:00 p.m. in a non-conference affair. It is the first of eight home contests on PSU's 16-game slate. The Little East Conference opener is Saturday, Sept. 20, the fifth game of the season.
Plymouth State is hoping to rebound from a sub par campaign in 2002, when the team finished 5-11-1 overall. The Panthers were in the middle of the pack in the Little East with a 3-3-1 mark.
Led by third-year head coach Keith Scarlett, the Panthers will play seven regular season conference matches. The LEC Tournament is slated for the first week of November, with the champion earning an automatic bid to the Division III NCAA Tournament.
2003 PSU Women's Soccer Outlook
Plymouth State returns more than a dozen veterans while welcoming a host of skilled newcomers in 2003, hoping to return to the form of the successful Panthers teams of the last two decades. Scarlett is optimistic the team will come together and be competitive in every game this year.
"Last season wasn't as successful on the scoreboard as we would've liked," said Scarlett, "but we were very young and we lost a lot of one-goal games to some very good teams. The players had no option but to raise the level of their game, and I'm encouraged they have throughout the course of last season and during the off-season. The learning curve has been phenomenal."
Scarlett indicated the 2003 squad is not one loaded with superstars, but rather players who play as a team and have the desire and dedication to succeed.
"One thing you can count on is our work rate," said Scarlett. "We're a blue collar team. We'll take our lunch pail to work every day. We'll come to play a full 90 minutes, sometimes more. And we'll have to every game, because we are in a strong conference and we play a tough schedule."
PSU's top returning players give the team an outstanding defensive unit. Seniors Kate Van Tassel (Natick, Mass.), Katie Sheridan (West Sayville, N.Y.) and Cathy Berei (Trenton, N.J.) are all four-year starters and should anchor the squad from the back. Sheridan and Berei are former All-Conference players, and Van Tassel could be the best of the bunch. Freshman Allison Frobey (Sandy Hook, Conn.) is the top newcomer, and will likely find herself in the starting line-up.
"I challenge any of our opponents to have a defensive unit like that," said Scarlett. "They may also see time at other positions on the field, but they are very strong defensively and should be the keys to this team."
Scarlett indicated the goalie situation is in good shape. Sophomore Hayley Quinones (Waitsfield, Vt.) returns after a solid freshman season in which she posted three shutouts. She could also be challenged for the starting role by sophomore Beth McAloon (Bedford, N.H.), a transfer from American International College.
The midfield positions are open entering the campaign, according to Scarlett. Several returnees could find themselves in the line-up, like junior Jennifer Arena (Southboro, Mass.) or sophomore Meagen Leenig (East Fishkill, N.Y.). Senior Becky Callery (Gill, Mass.) and sophomore Casey Bishop (Topsham, Maine) are experienced outside midfielders, and junior Amy Smith (Gilford, N.H.) and sophomore Kelli Langran (Marlton, N.J.) have also seen playing time. Scarlett indicated the incoming class is strong, led by freshmen Kelsey MacDonald (Oak Bluffs, Mass.) and Kelsey McBride (Brookline, N.H.), who could both become starters.
The Panther offense must overcome the loss of four-year standout Sandra Petlick, one of the school's all-time scoring leaders. Sophomore Melissa Erwin (Newington, Conn.) is back after finishing second on the team in scoring (four goals, two assists) despite playing only half the season at striker. Junior Michelle Dubois (Auburn, Maine) and senior Natasha Thorne (Melrose, Mass.) both have plenty of experience and can give the team a boost. A handful of the newcomers may be solid contributors, such as freshmen Krista Pettrey (Northfield, Vt.) and Mary Kate Cunningham (Holden, Mass.) and sophomore transfer Alicia Tefft (Brunswick, Maine).
"We're going to approach things day by day, game by game, session by session," said Scarlett, "and not worry about tomorrow. We want to finish each day better than we started it. If we do that, we should be a pretty good team by the middle of the season."
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