PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Look for the Plymouth State University women's soccer team to be greatly improved when the 2006 season kicks off this week at Panther Field.
The Panthers will open the campaign with a pair of home games, hosting Norwich University at 6:00 p.m. on Wednesday (Sept. 6) and Mitchell College at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday (Sept. 9). The opener is of particular interest for PSU second-year head coach Gene Smith (left), who is a Norwich graduate and served as an assistant coach there before coming to Plymouth State prior to last season.
PSU is coming off a disappointing 2005 campaign, when the team finished 4-11-2 overall and 2-4-1 in Little East Conference play. The Panthers were 4-2-1 at home, but came up empty (0-9-1) away from Plymouth.
Plymouth State will play a 16-game regular season schedule in 2006, including seven Little East Conference contests. The annual LEC Tournament is slated for the first week of November, with the champion receiving an automatic bid to the NCAA Division III Tournament. Plymouth State is seeking its first LEC Championship since going undefeated in conference play in 1997.
2006 PSU Women's Soccer Outlook
With 14 returning veterans and a strong group of newcomers, Smith is confident that this will be a much-improved team over last season.
"Last year there was a learning curve, with me being new here," says Smith. "This year we hit the ground running and should make a dramatic improvement. There's a completely different environment. The returnees are very motivated and enthusiastic, and we have some outstanding freshmen who have come in above and beyond what we expected. I'm excited about our team."
PSU managed to score only 20 goals in 17 games last season, and that's an area that Smith says will be key to the improvement.
"We have some offensive punch that wasn't there last year," says the coach, "and we have some defensive consistency because we return everyone along the back line."
Smith is most comfortable with the defensive line of seniors Allison Frobey (Sandy Hook, Conn./Newtown) and Ashley Lamell (Randolph, Vt./Northfield), junior Jordan Mayhew (Jamaica Plain, Mass./Cambridge R&L) and sophomore Kelsea Anderson (Rye, N.H./Portsmouth). Sophomore Nicole Bedard (Hudson, N.H./Alvirne) has improved and could also contribute.
"That's an outstanding back four, led by Frobey, a two-time All-Conference selection," says Smith.
The veteran defensive back line will be playing in front of a new goalkeeper, as both of last year's keepers graduated. Freshman Morgan McQuaide (Westerly, R.I.) and junior Ashley Riberdy (Manchester, N.H./Memorial) will both get their chances to prove themselves.
"They are both adjusting to the collegiate level," says Smith. "They are going to be outstanding, and having a solid four in front of them will help out."
PSU returns a pair of All-Conference standouts in the midfield in seniors Kelsey MacDonald (Oak Bluffs, Mass./Martha's Vineyard) and Kelsey McBride (Brookline, N.H./Hollis-Brookline). Both are four-year starters and McBride led the team in scoring the past two seasons, scoring four goals in 2004 and seven goals last year. Two outstanding freshmen who could see plenty of playing time, according to Smith, are Lauren Lavery (Nashua, N.H./Nashua South) and Brittany Phelps (Bow, N.H./Bow).
Junior Jaimee Coombs (Peabody, Mass.) was PSU's second-leading scorer last year (three goals, two assists) and returns to lead the offensive unit. Seniors Kara Arnold (Wolfeboro, N.H./Kingswood) and Ashley Dassatti (Hampstead, N.H./Pinkerton) and sophomore Brianna Coderre (Ira, Vt./West Rutland) are also returnees who will be looking to contribute, and Smith is pleased with freshmen Stacy DiSabato (Manchester, N.H./Central), Moe Sullivan (Foxboro, Mass./Foxboro) and Gianna Minervini (Point Pleasant, N.J./Point Pleasant Boro).
"We knew we needed to add some offense, and we feel we've got some outstanding freshmen," says Smith.
The biggest goal for the Panthers will be to move up in the LEC standings in 2006.
"We were disappointed with finishing sixth last year and we should do far better this season," says Smith. "Only one of our 11 losses was a blow out, so we want to turn those 1-0 and 2-1 losses into wins."
-- 30 --