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PSU Women’s Tennis to begin 2010 campaign

Young Panthers make debut this Saturday at home

Head Coach Barb Rawlsky-Willett

            PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The Plymouth State University women’s tennis team will be on home courts for five of its first six matches of the 2010 season, beginning this Saturday, Sept. 4, at the P.E. Center Courts.

            The Panthers will meet Little East Conference foe University of Southern Maine at 12 noon in Saturday’s debut.  PSU will also be home twice next week, hosting Worcester State University in an LEC encounter on Tuesday and Endicott College in a non-conference battle on Thursday, both matches beginning at 3:30 p.m.  The flip side is that PSU will play five of its six matches in the second half of the season on the road.

            PSU has a young squad for the second straight year, and will strive to be more competitive in the Little East Conference.  Seventh-year head coach Barbara Rawlsky-Willett hopes the team can get back on the winning track and contend for its first LEC championship since 2006.

            Plymouth State will play its 12 dual matches over the next seven weeks, including eight Little East matches.  The annual single-elimination LEC team tournament begins with opening-round play on Tuesday, Oct. 19.  The LEC Tournament champion receives an automatic berth in next spring’s NCAA Division III National Championships.

2010 PSU Women’s Tennis Outlook

             The Panthers return five veterans from last year’s starting line-up, including the top four singles players.  The team has no seniors, and Coach Rawlsky-Willett says that the six newcomers, which include five freshmen and a sophomore, could also make an impact.

            “We have a solid core coming back from last year,” said the coach.  “We’ve also got five very talented freshmen who need to learn what college tennis is all about, and make the next step up from high school tennis.  We’ll see who picks it up the fastest. They’re all hard-working girls and they’re supportive of each other.”

            Sophomore Sara Burke (Barrington, R.I.) and junior Laura Donovan (Acton, Mass./Acton-Boxborough) are back after holding down the top two singles spots in the Panther line-up last season.  Burke was the team’s No. 1 player and was selected LEC Rookie of the Year, and Donovan, who has played at No. 2 the past two years, was named All-LEC Second Team in 2009 after posting an 8-2 record.

            “Sara and Laura both had outstanding seasons last year,” said Rawlsky-Willett.  “We’re hoping they can build on that success and really step up this season.”

            Sophomore Rachel Figura (Cheshire, Conn./Cheshire) and junior Lydia Smith (Marblehead, Mass./Marblehead) held down the middle slots in the Panther line-up.  Junior Megan Cooper (Camarillo, Calif./Rio Mesa) will also look for success after playing at No. 6 singles and No. 3 doubles last year. Smith and Cooper will serve as the team captains this season.

            Rawlsky-Willett says all of the newcomers have shown promise, with freshmen Molly Heartfield (Dorset, Vt./Burr & Burton Academy) and Jane Duggan (Saunderstown, R.I./Exeter-West Greenwich) the strongest candidates to step into a starting role.

            “Our ultimate goal is to win the Little East Conference,” said Rawlsky-Willett.  “Last year we fell short of making the tournament but this year we have the capability to get there. We’re not sure where the new people are going to fit in; we’ll see what happens come match time.” 

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