PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University women's varsity tennis season opens this week with a dual match Friday at Wheaton College. The home season for the Panthers begins next Thursday, Sept. 11, with a dual at the P.E. Center Courts against Colby-Sawyer College.
The matches mark the beginning of a seven-week regular season for PSU, culminating with the annual Little East Conference Championships the third weekend in October. The Panthers will have home-court advantage in this year's LEC Tournament, and are hoping that will boost them to the top after finishing runner-up a year ago.
The Panthers, led by sixth-year head coach Judy Switzer, are coming off a pair of outstanding campaigns the past two years, posting 8-3 and 7-2 records. PSU is also 9-1 in Little East Conference regular season matches in that span, including a 5-0 mark in 2002.
2003 PSU Women's Tennis Outlook
The hopes are again high in the Plymouth State camp heading into the 2003 campaign. PSU returns nine of the top 11 players from last year's team, but Coach Switzer says the team is different following the graduation of Jamie Hazard, the team's top player the past two years.
"We don't have the big No. 1 player like we did with Jamie," says Switzer, "but we have a very strong all-around team. We have a lot of good competition, and it's making it hard to decide who's going to play where (in the line-up)."
Switzer added that the team has a positive attitude, with an eye on that coveted Little East Conference crown.
"We've been practicing well the past couple of weeks, working on our fitness," said Switzer. "The returnees are working hard, and freshmen are starting to feel a little more at home. We think we have more depth than we've had in the past, and we're excited for the season."
Sophomore Whitney O'Leary (Sagamore Beach, Mass.) is a strong candidate to move into the No. 1 position. She had a solid freshman season, posting a 5-3 singles mark, mostly in the No. 3 spot. Senior co-captain Katie Olsen (Reading, Mass.) also returns after posting a 14-4 record in the No. 2 singles position the past two years, and playing on the No. 1 doubles team.
Other key returnees who should find a spot in the singles line-up include sophomores Jessie Leone (Cataumet, Mass.) and Megan Sowers (Londonderry, N.H.) and senior Cally Thorup (Cumberland, Maine), all of whom saw action last year. Senior Lindsay Coletti (Hudson, Mass.), a two-year co-captain, could also fit into the picture, as could freshman Sarah Cole (North Waterboro, Maine).
Switzer indicated that Leone and O'Leary have played doubles together since high school, and may form the top PSU doubles tandem. Olsen and Sowers are also experienced doubles players.
"We're in good shape in doubles," says Switzer, "better than singles. We've got a lot of tall girls. There are all kinds of combinations, and things are still constantly changing, but we should have plenty of depth in doubles."
The rest of the team who will be contending for a spot in either the singles or doubles line-up includes junior Cassie Cash (Bath, Maine), sophomores Liz Duell (Hopewell Valley, R.I.) and Rachel Xavier (Meredith, N.H.), and freshmen Kiley Boyd (Brattleboro, Vt.), Erica Huckins (Plymouth, N.H.), Jenna Soto (Southold, N.Y.) and Brittany Campbell (Newport, R.I.).
"We played a scrimmage match, and that really helped us out," said Switzer. "We're ready to get the regular season going. We're very happy with our success the past couple of years, and hopefully we'll continue to compete well at the LEC Tourney. Having the tournament on our home courts should help our cause."
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