PLYMOUTH, N.H. - It will be a young and inexperienced team that will take the court Saturday when the Plymouth State College women's tennis team opens the 1998 campaign. The season opener will also mark the debut of PSC head coach Judy Switzer.
The Panthers travel to Castleton State (Vt.) this Saturday (Sept. 12) for a 1:00 p.m. match. After another road match Tuesday (Sept. 15) at Colby-Sawyer (4:00 p.m.), PSC will make its first home appearance next Friday (Sept. 18) at 3:30 p.m. against UMass Lowell.
"We're a very young team," said Switzer, who joined the Panther staff last month, "with three sophomores and a freshman. Our goals are to improve our tennis, which we have already done. We just finished a very successful pre-season, and I've already seen a tremendous amount of improvement, and so have they."
The Panthers, who posted a 5-6 overall record last season, return just three players to this year's squad, including two who were regulars in the line-up. Switzer is making no predictions on this season's results, she just wants to see the team come together and play to its potential.
"Of course we'd like to win them all," said Switzer, "but we are very young and inexperienced. We just want everyone to try their hardest, do their best, and incorporate some of the new things we're doing. You learn by playing matches, and that's what we'll do."
PSC has finished in the top three in the Little East Conference Tournament the past three seasons, including back-to-back second place finishes in'95 and '96. The Panthers will have their work cut out for them in a attempt to unseat two-time defending champion UMass Dartmouth.
Leading the way for the '98 campaign will be senior Sarah Schutzendorf (Fayetteville, NY), who was elected captain by her teammates. She posted a 7-4 record at No. 5 singles as a freshman, and after sitting out most of her sophomore season, returned last fall and registered a 7-6 mark at No. 3 singles. Switzer expects her to take over the top singles position this season.
"Sarah is a very natural athlete, and a natural player," said Switzer. "I think she is going to be one of the best players we'll run into in these matches."
The next two singles positions will likely be filled by sophomores Jamie Hupper (Merrimack, NH) and Liza Tallarita (Warwick, RI), who are also returning veterans. Tallarita played mostly at No. 5 and No. 6 last season, finishing with a 4-6 combined singles mark, while Hupper saw limited action, mostly in doubles.
"Jamie is not the most beautiful player, but she can return almost anything," said Switzer, "and she has a strong desire to win. Liza has some very strong forehand skills and excellent ground shots. She just needs to improve her footwork and move a little bit better."
Rounding out the line-up is junior Jen Letter (Nashua, NH), a newcomer to the team, freshman Amy Fritz (Liverpool, NY), and sophomore Becky Wark (Westbrook, ME). Letter and Fritz are solid players who will improve with more experience, according to Switzer, and Wark, who has an excellent mid-court volley, has already shown improvement in the pre-season.
"They're all terrific girls," said Switzer, "and we're looking forward to the season. We're young, but we've got a talented bunch. It's been a good mix so far of hard work and enjoyment."
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