PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Facing the defending Little East Conference champion and pre-season favorite in the opening match, the Plymouth State College women's volleyball team makes its 2000 season debut this weekend in a round robin format, hosted by the University of Southern Maine.
The Panthers will meet Western Connecticut in the opening match Friday, Sept. 8, at 7 p.m., in Gorham, Maine, followed by LEC encounters Saturday at 10 a.m. vs. Keene State and 12:30 p.m. against host USM. PSC returns to Foley Gymnasium for the home opener next Tuesday, Sept. 12, against Green Mountain College (7 p.m.)
Third-year head coach Moira Long welcomes back a group of seven returnees from last year's team, including an All-Little East Conference First Team selection. The 1999 squad received the program's first-ever New England regional ranking last September and finished with a 23-11 overall record. Not only does PSC want to keep its streak of 20-win seasons alive, but is still searching for the program's first post-season bid.
The Panthers, who finished 4-3 in Little East matches last season and were eliminated in the LEC Tournament semi-finals, seek a visit to the finals in 2000 and a shot at the automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. PSC was picked third in the LEC Coaches Pre-season poll.
"We want to be in that top two of our conference," said Long. "That's the next step as we progress towards a conference championship."
2000 P.S.C. Volleyball Outlook
Although the Panthers lost four key seniors after the 1999 season, a foursome that were the building blocks for a program that is only four years old, Long says that'll be no excuse for not keeping the program on the upswing. In fact, Long says, look for the Panthers to maintain the .724 winning percentage the first four teams have achieved (W-92, L-35), including last season's 23-11 mark.
"Just because we lost four seniors isn't an excuse to have a slide," says Long. "We have enough talent to maintain the tradition those seniors started, and to build on it."
"I think offensively we should be very strong," says Long. "We have more height than we've ever had. We have a lot of people who have the ability to put the ball away. Blocking should be a strength as well."
Leading the way for PSC should be sophomore outside hitter Carin LaValley (Northfield, N.H.), a First Team All-LEC pick last season, the first in school history. She set several school records for kills, attack percentage, and service aces, and is a dominant hitter. She showed her value by earning All-Tournament honors several times last season.
Other key returnees for 2000 include junior middle blocker Dawn Mellon (Center Barnstead, NH), sophomore setter and tri-captain Jessie O'Hearn (Tilton, NH), and senior defensive specialist and tri-captain Stephanie Spiridakis (Belmont, NH), who all saw regular action last season. Senior tri-captain Monica Yacovelli (Elmsford, NY), junior Brandi Foster (Farmington, N.H.) and sophomore Ali Horton (Hampstead, NH) provide depth.
Top newcomers should include hitters Becky Landry (Nashua, NH), Sonia Trudell (Somersworth, NH), and Joanna Brothers (Meredith, NH), and defensive specialists Amanda Hamilton (Center Harbor, NH) and Amber Greenlaw (Gilford, N.H.)
While crediting the current make-up of the team, Long also acknowledged the contributions of former Panthers Sarah Goggin, Veronica Mulholland, Jill Langis and Andrea Baretta.
"Leadership is where we're most affected," says Long. "When you lose people like Sarah and Veronica, Jill and Andrea, the core of our leadership, other people are going to have to step up. We have the talent, but lack the experience at the college level."