PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The sixth varsity season of women's volleyball at Plymouth State College begins this weekend when the Panthers travel to Springfield, Mass., for a tournament at Western New England College.
The Panthers will participate in tournament play beginning Friday (Sept. 7) at 7:00 p.m., and continuing through Saturday (Sept. 8). It is the first of four regular season tournaments that PSC will enter. The home opener is scheduled for Friday and Saturday, Sept. 14-15, against three other schools in a Little East Conference round-robin format at Foley Gymnasium.
A program that started in 1996, Plymouth State made its first appearance in the regional rankings in 2000. PSC is hoping to continue the building process, and earn its first post-season berth in 2001.
Plymouth State will play on 19 dates during the regular season, with seven Little East Conference matches in the mix. The LEC play-offs begin on Wednesday, Oct. 31st, with the conference champion being crowned on Saturday, Nov. 3rd, and earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
2001 PSC Women's Volleyball Outlook
With the return of its top two hitters from last season, Plymouth State should display a potent offense in 2001 as the Panthers continue to strive for its first Little East Conference championship.
"I think the strength of our team will be our offense," said fourth-year head coach Moira Long, who sports a career record of 67-34, including a 22-12 mark last season. "With the return of Carin LaValley (Northfield, N.H.) and Becky Landry, (Nashua, N.H.), who were quite successful last season, that gives us a solid base to build on."
LaValley, a junior outside hitter, is a two-time First Team All-LEC selection, while Landry, a sophomore middle hitter, was last year's LEC Rookie of the Year. The duo combined to average more than six kills per game last season, and prevents opponents from focusing on just one attacker.
Another key returnee is junior setter Jessie O'Hearn (Tilton, N.H.). Now in her third season as starter, O'Hearn will be instrumental in running the Panther offense.
"She was inexperienced in the position when she took over as a freshman," said Long, "but she now has a real understanding of what we need to do offensively. I expect her to continue to distribute the ball to our top hitters at the right time."
Long will also look to returning sophomores Sonia Trudell (Somersworth, N.H.) and Amber Greenlaw (Gilford, N.H.). Trudell will see more playing time as a left-side hitter, and Greenlaw takes over as a top passer.
"We will have to overcome the loss of Stephanie Spiridakis as our best passer," said Long, "but I think Sonia and Amber will pick up the slack. Passing is an area where we need to be more consistent, and we worked on it a lot in the spring. If you can't pass, you can't run a consistent or strong offense."
Long is also hoping the Panthers become a better serving team, especially with the new rally-scoring format.
"We need to improve our service ace-to-error ratio," said Long. "I don't think the rally-scoring rule change will affect us that much, because we were always a strong rally-scoring team. It's something we've always practiced a lot. The difference is that I expect other teams will now practice it a lot as well."
The rules are different and some of the players have changed, but Long says the Panther goals remain the same.
"We want to be in the top two of our conference," said Long. "Western Connecticut is the team to beat, and Eastern Connecticut is always strong. Those are the teams we'll have to overcome as we work towards a conference championship."