PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The 2003 Plymouth State University women's volleyball season begins this Friday and Saturday when the Panthers host the Super 8 Invitational Tournament at Foley Gymnasium.
Six schools will be involved in the season-opening tourney - Bridgewater State College, Coast Guard Academy, Johnson and Wales University, Western New England College, Williams College and PSU. Pool play starts at 5:30 p.m. on Friday and continues at 7:30 p.m. Saturday's competition includes more pool play at 9:00 a.m., the semifinal round at 11:00 a.m. and the consolation and championship rounds at 1:00 and 3:00 p.m.
Plymouth State is the defending champion of the tournament. The Panthers captured the 2002 title with consecutive wins over Pine Manor, WNEC, Mount Holyoke and Johnson & Wales.
This weekend's action will be the first of five regular season tournaments for the Panthers. PSU will also play seven Little East Conference matches leading into the annual LEC Tournament the second week in November. The conference tournament champion receives an automatic bid to the Division III NCAA Tournament.
2003 PSU Women's Volleyball Outlook
Plymouth State has plenty of reasons to be optimistic for the upcoming season. The Panthers are coming off a 25-11 campaign that included a runner-up finish in the Little East Conference and the first post-season appearance in the program's history.Not only are most of the key components from last year's squad returning, including two All-LEC hitters and the Offensive Player of the Year, but the top player from 2001, who missed all of last season, is rehabbed and ready for a return.
"We have high expectations, with six returning seniors who have lots of experience," said PSU Coach Moira Long, the 2002 LEC Coach of the Year. "Our goal is to win the conference. Last year we finished second in the regular season but took a tough loss in the tournament. We want to get over that hump and get to the finals and put ourselves in a position to win."
The Panthers should have a potent offense with the return of three First Team All-LEC hitters in seniors Becky Landry (Nashua, N.H.) and Carin LaValley (Northfield, N.H.) and sophomore Kelly Landry (Nashua, N.H.). Becky Landry was the 2002 LEC Player of the Year and the 2000 Rookie of the Year. LaValley is a three-time All-LEC First Team selection, but missed last season following knee surgery. Kelly Landry was a First Team All-Conference pick as a freshman a year ago.
"We have a lot of firepower," said Long. "Now it doesn't matter who's in the front row, we have someone who can really put the ball away."
The challenge for the team will be working with a new setter following the graduation of four-year starter Jessie O'Hearn. Sophomore Amanda Bagwell (Riverside, R.I.) appears ready to take over after running the offense during the off-season, although she lacks collegiate match experience.
Other key returnees include senior hitters Sonia Trudell (Somersworth, N.H.) and Kate Shirey (Amherst, N.H.). Trudell also really stepped it up last season as a right-side hitter, and matched up well defensively against the opponent's top hitters. Shirey is also a strong defensive presence who has improved offensively.Senior hitter Joanna Brothers (Meredith, N.H.) and defensive specialist Megan O'Connor (Rochester, N.Y.) give PSU depth off the bench.
The other returnees include sophomores Stacy Therrien (Rochester, N.H.), Lindsey Bodwell (Farmington, N.H.), and Kim Krause (Pound Ridge, N.Y.). The newcomers on the team are sophomore Becky Ciulla (Chelmsford, Mass.) and freshmen Meghan Swanson (Attleboro, Mass.) and Heather Bollerman (Mahwah, N.J.).
The Panthers, who made the first post-season visit in the program's history last season with an ECAC Tournament berth, are hoping for more in 2003.
"Playing in the post-season was a great experience," said Long. "We got enough of a taste of it to know that's where we aspire to be."
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