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PSU Women’s Tennis to begin 2011 campaign

Panthers make debut this Friday at home

            PLYMOUTH, N.H. – A new season for the Plymouth State University women's tennis team begins this Friday, Sept. 2, when the Panthers host the University of Southern Maine in a Little East Conference match at the P.E. Center Courts.

            The Panthers will play four home matches in September and two more in October.  After a visit to Colby-Sawyer College on Sept. 7, PSU will be home again on Saturday, Sept. 10, to host league rival Bridgewater State University.

PSU Women's Tennis Season Preview '11
  Head Coach Barbara Rawlsky-Willett

            PSU has a veteran squad this fall, with nine returning upperclassmen on its 10-player roster.  Led by eighth-year head coach Barbara Rawlsky-Willett, the team could move into the upper half of the conference and possibly contend for its first LEC championship since 2006.

            Plymouth State will play 13 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. 18.  The LEC Tournament champion receives an automatic berth in next spring's NCAA Division III National Championships. 

2011 PSU Women's Tennis Outlook

            The Panthers return four starters from last year's singles line-up, and several others who could challenge for a spot in this year's line-up.  Coach Rawlsky-Willett says there is plenty of competition going on during the preseason.

            "Everyone is working hard on their own games, and working to make each other better," said Rawlsky-Willett.  "We've had a real positive attitude and a strong work ethic.  Several people are battling for spots in the line-up, so we've had some good practices and some good competition."

            The coach says there are three players who will likely hold down the top three spots in the line-up – junior Sara Burke, senior co-captain Lydia Smith and sophomore Molly Heartfield.  A former Little East Conference Rookie of the Year, Burke has been PSU's No. 1 player the past two seasons and is ready to emerge as one of the top players in the LEC, according to Rawlsky-Willett; Smith had a team-best 9-3 record last year at No. 4 singles and has been impressive this fall; and Heartfield is coming off a strong rookie campaign that included an 8-1 record at No. 5 singles.

            "Those three are emerging as the top players in our line-up," said Rawlsky-Willett.  "Sara really has an opportunity to become one of the elite of the league.  Lydia has really looked good this fall and Molly has picked up right where she left off last season."

            There's a group of veterans who are battling for the bottom three spots in the singles line-up, including senior co-captain Megan Cooper, junior Elizabeth Silsby, and sophomores Chelsea Thibeault and Jane Duggan.  Sophomores Cheyenne Lessard and Ashley Hanlon are also returning veterans, and they are joined by freshman Rosalie DiRado.

            "Our ultimate goal is to win the Little East Conference," said Rawlsky-Willett.  "Last year we made the play-offs, and this year we want to finish in the top four and be at home for the first round.  We're improving, so we'll have to just keep working hard and we'll see." 

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