PLYMOUTH, N.H. - One of the last teams to open its fall sports season at Plymouth State University is the women's soccer team, but the Panthers will kick off the 2007 campaign with a pair of home games at Panther Field.
The opener is set for this Saturday, Sept. 8, at 11:00 a.m. against Newbury College, with the second game slated for next Tuesday, Sept. 11, against Fitchburg State College at 5:00 p.m. They are the first of nine regular season games at Panther Field this fall.
Led by third-year head coach Gene Smith, the Panthers are coming off a 7-8-2 overall record in 2006, which marked a three-game improvement over the previous season. PSU finished in a three-way tie for fourth place in the LEC, and will be looking to earn home-field advantage for this year's conference tournament.
Plymouth State will play a 17-game regular season schedule in 2007, 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 Women's Soccer Championship since capturing seven straight conference titles from 1990-96.
2007 PSU Women's Soccer Outlook
With 10 returning veterans and a talented group of newcomers, Smith is optimistic the team can continue with its improvement.
‘We're young," said Smith (left). "It seems like most of our team is freshman and sophomores. We lost a lot from last year, to graduation as well as some unexpected losses, but we have plenty of talent here. I'm confident that we will pull together."
The Panthers return six field players and one goalkeeper with starting experience, and Smith thinks a couple newcomers could end up in the starting lineup.
"The group that we have now has dealt with adversity, and it's almost redefined who we are," said Smith. "They are extremely motivated, more so than in previous years."
PSU scored 32 goals last season after finishing with only 20 in 2005, and Smith said look for more where that came from.
"We should have a good balance," he said. "There's an offensive punch, but the back is strong, too, with some of our top players back there."
Leading the group of returnees are a pair of defenders in senior Jordan Mayhew (Jamaica Plain, Mass./Cambridge R&L) and junior Kelsea Anderson (Rye, N.H./Portsmouth), and senior forward Jaimee Coombs (Peabody, Mass.)
"They have consistently improved since they've been here and are the core group that will lead their younger teammates," said Smith.
A group of sophomores that includes forward Stacy DiSabato (Manchester, N.H./Central) and midfielders Lauren Lavery (Nashua, N.H./Nashua South) and Britt Phelps (Bow, N.H./Bow) made solid impacts as freshmen last year, and should also be key players this fall.
Other returning veteran field players include senior midfielder Georgia Rooney (Kent, Conn./Housatonic Valley), junior back Nicole Bedard (Hudson, N.H./Alvirne), and sophomore forward Gianna Minervini (Point Pleasant, N.J./Point Pleasant Boro).
The goalkeeping duties will be in the hands of senior Ashley Riberdy (Manchester, N.H./Memorial), who was 4-0-2 with four shutouts in six starts a year ago.
Smith says freshman midfielders Rachel Kindl (Granby, Conn.) and Alex Marcell (Pittsford, Vt./New Hampton Prep, N.H.) and freshman back Jess Babino (Scarborough, Maine) have been the top newcomers in preseason. Also showing promise are midfielder Sarah Daglis (Berlin, Conn.) and forward Rebecca Wilson (Clinton, Conn./Morgan School).
"We've got talent, we're just young," said Smith. "How quickly we gel as a team will help determine how far this team can go."
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