- The Plymouth State University women's volleyball team will host its annual season-opening tournament this weekend at Foley Gymnasium as the Panthers look to get a jump-start on the 2005 campaign.
PSU will host five other schools in the Cobblestone Inn Invitational Friday and Saturday - Clark University, Johnson and Wales University, Lasell University, Mount Ida College, and Western New England College. 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 and 2004 tournament titles, sandwiched around the 2003 championship which was claimed by Williams College.
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
PSU is the defending LEC champion, winning the first conference volleyball title in school history last season and advancing to the NCAA Tournament.
"We hope to build on what we accomplished last year," said eighth-year head coach Moira Long (right). "We didn't lose anyone, and we're bringing in more talent. We'll be more competitive at each position and I expect everyone to continue to improve."
Plymouth State Volleyball is looking forward to an exciting campaign in 2005, with everyone returning from last year's LEC Championship team that finished with a 28-12 overall record.
The Panthers have three senior returning All-LEC First Team selections - outside hitter Kelly Landry (Nashua, N.H.), middle hitter Becky Ciulla (Chelmsford, Mass.) and setter Amanda Bagwell (Riverside, R.I.). Landry was the LEC Offensive Player of the Year, Ciulla led the conference in hitting percentage while setting a school record for blocks, and Bagwell earned her second straight All-LEC selection after leading the conference in assists.
"They're the three that get all the attention and recognition," said Long, "but they're just three members of our team. We couldn't do it without everyone else. Everyone must contribute for us to have success. We had that happen so much last year and that's why we were so successful."
Other key Panther returnees include senior middle hitter Stacy Therrien (Rochester, N.H.) and senior defensive specialist Lindsay Bodwell (Farmington, N.H.). Therrien has improved with experience, according to Long, while Bodwell plays strong defense and provides a spark to the team. The Panthers will have to overcome the loss of senior outside hitter Kim Krause (Pound Ridge, N.Y.), who suffered a season-ending injury in preseason.
There should also be a couple of newcomers who could make an impact on the lineup, according to the coach.
Long says it will be a challenge for PSU to repeat its Little East title. The Panthers emerged as champions in the tournament last year after finishing in a four-way tie in the regular-season race.
"Winning the Little East is still our ultimate goal," she says. "The conference is tougher than it's been in the past. Eastern Connecticut and Western Connecticut will want to avenge their losses to us in the tournament, and Rhode Island College should be in there."
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