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PSU Women’s Tennis to make season debut at Colby-Sawyer Tourn.

             PLYMOUTH, N.H. - For the third time in four years, the Plymouth State University women's tennis team will open the season at the annual Colby-Sawyer College Shootout in New London, N.H.

            The Panthers will join Colby-Sawyer and Castleton State College for the two-day event this Saturday and Sunday, beginning at 10:00 a.m. each day.  Three different schools have won the tournament in the last three years; PSU won it three years ago, Colby-Sawyer took the tournament in 2006, and Saint Michael's captured last year's title.

            The rest of the PSU schedule will consist of 12 dual matches, including seven Little East Conference encounters.  The first three are at home at the P.E. Center Courts, beginning next Thursday, Sept. 4, against Endicott College (4:30 p.m.) The LEC opener is Saturday, Sept. 6, against the University of Southern Maine (2:00 p.m.), and the Panthers wrap up the home stand Wednesday, Sept. 10, against Saint Michael's (4:30 p.m.)

            PSU will be looking to rebound from a disappointing campaign in 2007.  After capturing the Little East Conference championship in 2006, the Panthers slipped to a fourth-place tie at last year's LEC Tournament. The team finished with a 4-8 dual match record last season, but has combined for a 46-29 mark over the past seven years, including 31-11 in LEC matches.

            This year's LEC Tournament format has changed, and will be a team-vs.-team weeklong tourney instead of the flighted tournaments of the past.  The tournament, slated for Oct. 17-18, will be held at the site of the regular season champion following the round-robin play. The LEC Tournament champion receives an automatic berth in next spring's NCAA Division III National Championships.

2008 PSU Women's Tennis Outlook

            Led by fifth-year head coach Barbara Rawlsky-Willett, the Panthers have six newcomers on its roster of 11 players. There is just one senior and two juniors, so it's a young team that will take the court. Three of the veterans are returning starters, so the line-up will have some changes as well.  

             "We have 11 skilled players on the team," said Rawlsky-Willett (right), "so we have a lot of competition going on in practice right now.  A couple of the newcomers should step right into the line-up and help us out. They all have great attitudes, so it will be interesting to see how the ladder shakes out."

            Senior Meghan Rodier (Francestown, N.H./ConVal),who has played #2 singles the past two years after playing at #6 singles as a freshman, is the top returning player.  She has a sparkling 32-13 career record in singles, and gives PSU a solid player at the top of the line-up.

            "She has been very consistent, and has had success every year that she's been here," said Rawlsky-Willett.  "She's looking good this year and I anticipate she will take over the top spot on the team."

            The other returning starters are junior Amanda Arponen (Plymouth, Mass./Plymouth South) and sophomore Buffy Garland (Freedom, N.H./Kennett). They played at #4 and #5 singles for PSU last year, Arponen finishing 7-7 and Garland 7-10.

            Freshman Laura Donovan (Acton, Mass./Acton-Boxborough) should lead a solid group of newcomers. She has displayed strong stroke play in the pre-season as well as consistency, according to Rawlsky-Willett, and came to PSU after winning a high school state championship. She should be near the top of the line-up in both singles and doubles.

            Freshmen Lydia Smith (Marblehead, Mass./Marblehead) and Sandy Capecelatro (Brewster, N.Y./Brewster) have also shown outstanding potential in the preseason and could earn spots in the middle of the line-up.

            Sophomores Nikki Kolb (Gilford, N.H./Gilford) and Abby Warren (Durham, N.H./Oyster River) could also challenge for starting roles, and rounding out the roster are junior Melissa Castellano (East Northport, N.Y./John Glenn), sophomore transfer Megan Cooper (Camarillo, Calif.), and freshman Kelsey McPherson (Durham, Maine/Brunswick).

            The Little East Conference race is wide open, according to Rawlsky-Willett.  The top two teams from last year, Bridgewater State College and Rhode Island College, each lost several key players and both went through coaching changes.  PSU is hoping to continue its "even-year" success, having won LEC titles in 2004 and 2006.

            "Winning the LEC is certainly one of our goals," said Rawlsky-Willett.  "We're looking more like a team this year so that should make us better.  We'll have a lot of new faces in the line-up, and this weekend at Colby-Sawyer will give me a better idea of who is match-tough. I think we have the makings for a good season." 

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