- The 2005 season will begin on the road for the Plymouth State University women's tennis team as the Panthers compete in two dual matches and a tournament in the first week before the home opener on Sept. 8.
PSU opens the season with a dual match at Wheaton College on Friday (Sept. 2) and then participates in the Colby-Sawyer Shootout Tournament Saturday-Sunday (Sept. 3-4) in New London, N.H. After a dual at Endicott on Tuesday (Sept. 6), the Panthers host Colby-Sawyer on Thursday (Sept. 8) in the first of three straight home matches. All home contests are at the P.E. Center Courts.
The Panthers will be out to defend their Little East Conference
championship in 2005. PSU finished 6-4 in dual matches during the
regular season, including a 4-2 mark in LEC matches, and upset
defending champion Rhode Island College by one-half point for the
title at the LEC Championships.
Led by second-year head coach Barbara Rawlsky-Willett (right), the Panthers will play 11 dual matches and one tournament in the next seven weeks, culminating with the annual Little East Conference Championships the third weekend in October.
PSU has combined for a 26-14 record over the past four years, including 16-5 in LEC matches. The 2004 LEC team title was PSU's first in the 11 years of the conference.
It should be another exciting season for Plymouth State, with every starter returning from last year's Little East championship team. The Panthers finished 2004 with a bang, winning one LEC doubles and three conference singles championships en route to the team title.
"We've got all of our players back, which is huge in tennis," said second-year head coach Barbara Rawlsky-Willett. "It's always tougher to defend the title than to come in as an underdog, so we will have to be prepared. We should be able to hold our own, but if someone else gets a new player at the top of their lineup, it bumps everybody else down and can drastically change the nature of that team."
Leading the group of Panther returnees are seniors Whitney O'Leary (Sagamore Beach, Mass.), and Rachel Xavier (Meredith, N.H.), junior Erica Huckins (Plymouth, N.H.) and sophomore Jill Deyermond (Atkinson, N.H.). They were the nucleus of last year's team, and should repeat this fall. O'Leary is a two-year captain and played both #1 singles and #1 doubles; Huckins helped clinch the LEC title with her victory at #2 singles; Deyermond finished runner-up in the #3 singles bracket as a freshman; and Xavier is a two-time champion at #4 singles. Deyermond and Xavier also won the #2 doubles title in 2004.
"Whitney's a great team leader, and she never gives up," said Rawlsky-Willett. "Erica, who greatly improved from her freshman to her sophomore year, does everything she's asked and is extremely consistent and hard working. Rachel is very aggressive and hits the ball hard off both sides, and Jill has a good all-around game, and she works hard, too. She's very dedicated and a pleasure to coach. They make a great group to build around."
Seniors Sarah Cole (North Waterboro, Maine) and Liz Duell (Hopewell Valley, R.I.) also return after seeing action at #5 and #6 singles last season. Sophomore Briley Boisvert (Goffstown, N.H./Trinity) also gained valuable experience in the lineup last fall, and juniors Kiley Boyd (Brattleboro, Vt.) and Brittany Campbell (Newport, R.I.) round out the list of returnees. Freshman Meghan Rodier (Francestown, N.H./ConVal) is the team's lone newcomer.
"Our goal is always to win the Little East Conference," said Rawlsky-Willett. "I like our schedule this year. Playing in the Colby-Sawyer Tournament in September will give us more tournament experience. We'll have to be consistent and be ready to go from the beginning of the season. We have to improve throughout the season so we're peaking for the LEC Tournament in October."
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