PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University women's soccer team makes its season debut at home this Saturday, hosting Granite State rival New England College in a non-conference encounter at Panther Field (1:00 p.m.)
The Panthers will then play their next three games on the road at Simmons College, Green Mountain College and Colby-Sawyer College before returning home to host rival Keene State College in the Little East Conference opener on Saturday, Sept. 19.
Plymouth State is looking to bounce back after a disappointing season a year ago. Fifth-year head coach Gene Smith (right) welcomes back 19 veterans from last year's team, including nine starters and several others who saw significant playing time, which gives the Panthers plenty of experience and depth on this year's squad.
The Panthers will play a 17-game regular season schedule in 2009, 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.
2009 PSU Women's Soccer Outlook
Coach Smith says the experience and playing time the young players got last year should pay off for the Panthers this fall.
"We're miles ahead of where we were last year as a team," said Smith. "They've really matured and they're playing much better. It was good to get that experience last year and it looks like it's going to pay off. I think the biggest thing is the depth we have this year."
Smith said the team is working hard in pre-season, with the veterans mixing well with the newcomers. He said the team is excited about the year.
"I don't want to sound overconfident, but I feel good overall about the team," said Smith. "I don't see any major weaknesses anywhere on the field. I believe we can compete with anyone on our schedule."
The Panthers have two returning All-Conference selections in senior co-captains Lauren Lavery (Nashua, N.H./Nashua South) and Stacy DiSabato (Manchester, N.H./Central). Lavery was named First Team All-LEC at midfield last year after leading the team in scoring with seven goals and four assists. DiSabato, a former Second Team All-LEC pick, was second on the team last year with six goals and is the leading active scorer with 18 goals and six assists.
Joining Lavery and DiSabato as co-captains are senior defender Jen Mooney (Whitman, Mass./Whitman-Hanson) and junior midfielder Rachel Kindl (Granby, Conn.) Mooney is a three-year starter and Kindl has been a part-time starter but has battled injuries.
"They're the leaders of the team, both on and off the field," said Smith. "Every good team has good leaders and we're proud of that group."
Other contenders to join DiSabato on the offensive unit include juniors Eliza Roy-Webb (Durham, N.H./Oyster River), sophomore Charlotte Miller (Bedford, N.H./Bishop Brady), and freshmen Jordan MacNeely (Marstons Mills, Mass./Barnstable) and Julie Behan (Laconia, N.H.).
Playing alongside Lavery in the midfield will be sophomores Sarah Pandiscio (Simsbury, Conn.) and Amy Green (Atkinson, N.H./Timberlane), who return after solid rookie campaigns. Kindl is looking solid since returning from her injury, and senior Gianna Minervini (Point Pleasant, N.J./Point Pleasant Boro) provides energy and a defensive presence off the Panther bench. Smith says sophomores Kelsey Marvin (Elizabethtown, N.Y./Elizabethtown-Lewis Central) and Courtney Marvin (Elizabethtown, N.Y./Elizabethtown-Lewis Central) and could also be in the mix, along with Behan and freshman Brittany Raymond (Gorham, N.H.)
Senior transfer Ariana Hunt (Pierre, S.D./T.F. Riggs) has come in and taken over the starting center back position, according to Smith, filling the vacancy left by graduated four-year starter Kelsea Anderson. "The one hole we thought we might have has been filled by Ariana," said Smith.
Joining Hunt and Mooney on defense for PSU are junior Jess Babino (Scarborough, Maine) and sophomores Katie Lozano (Woolwich, Maine/Morse) and Tracie Novak (Manassas, Va./Osbourn).
PSU returns both of its goalkeepers from last year in sophomores Stephanie Regina (Howell, N.J.) and Angelina LaBroad (Hampton, N.H./Winnacunnet).They split time in the net last season, each starting nine games, and Smith indicated that was likely to continue until one of them started significantly outplaying the other. Smith added the addition of new goalie coach Scott Weldon should help both keepers.
"I think a lot of teams in the Little East, including us, were disappointed in their finish last year," said Smith. "There were games we lost that we know we could have or should have won, and I think the team has used that as a motivating factor in the off-season. They're looking forward to this year."
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