- The 2004 Plymouth State University women's volleyball season begins this Friday and Saturday when the Panthers host the Best Inn Invitational at Foley Gymnasium.
Six schools will be involved in the season-opening tourney - Johnson and Wales University, Lasell University, UMaine Farmington, Mount Ida College, Western New England 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 captured the 2002 tournament title, and Williams College claimed last year's championship.
This weekend's action will be the first of six regular season tournaments for Plymouth State. The Panthers 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.
2004 PSU Women's Volleyball Outlook
The successful 2003 campaign for Plymouth State will be a tough act to follow, but the Panthers are determined to pick up from where they left off. Last year's team set a school record for victories with a 29-8 record and made its second straight ECAC Tournament berth. Head Coach Moira Long says to look for another strong season from the Panthers in 2004.
"This is a much different team than last year," says Long, who is in her seventh season at PSU. "We lost a lot of seniors but that doesn't mean we won't be successful. The returning players and the newcomers have an expectation for themselves and for the program, and we don't expect a drop-off."
The Panthers will have to overcome the loss of a strong senior class that included three All-Conference selections (Becky Landry, Carin LaValley and Sonia Trudell), and the two-time Offensive Player of the Year (Landry), but Long has two All-Conference picks and eight returning veterans to backbone this year's team.
Leading the way will be junior Kelly Landry (Nashua, N.H.) a two-time First Team All-LEC hitter. She has been one of the top players in the league her first two seasons, and seems primed to blossom.
"Kelly has been dominant since her freshman year, and we expect more of the same," says Long. "She will probably take on more of the load this year, and step it up even more."
Two other juniors will be key players - outside hitter Becky Ciulla (Chelmsford, Mass.) and setter Amanda Bagwell (Riverside, R.I.). Ciulla was a starter last year after transferring to PSU, and Bagwell was named All-Conference First Team in her first season as a starter.
"Becky got settled in last year, and we'll expect more from her this year because she's our top middle player," said Long, "and Amanda is a huge factor. She has a lot of experience and really knows our offense, and that has helped everyone get better."
Junior outside hitter Kim Krause (Pound Ridge, N.Y.) should see increased playing time this fall, and junior Stacy Therrien (Rochester, N.H.) should take over at middle hitter after two years as a reserve. Other returning veterans include junior Lindsey Bodwell (Farmington, N.H.) and sophomores Heather Bollerman (Mahwah, N.J.) and Meghan Swanson (Attleboro, Mass.).
Freshman outside hitter Caitlin Collins (Mahwah, N.J.) is one of the top newcomers and could contribute this fall, and classmate Mary Fenton (Somersworth, N.H.) should be a solid reserve setter.
"We'll have a little different style compared to what we had last year," says Long. "Last year was more power, and this year defense will be a big factor. Not that we can't put the ball down, but I think we're a better defensive team than last year, which will help offensively."
-- 30 --