PLYMOUTH, N.H. - 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 2006 campaign.
PSU will host six other schools in the Cobblestone Inn Invitational Friday and Saturday - Bates, Lasell, UMass Boston, Mount Ida, Newbury, and Western New England College. The competition starts at 4:00 p.m. on Friday and continues with matches at 6:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. Saturday's schedule includes matches at 9:00 a.m., 11:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m. and 3:00 p.m.
This weekend's action will be the first of four regular season tournaments for Plymouth State. The Panthers will also play seven Little East Conference matches leading into the annual LEC Tournament the first week in November. The conference tournament champion receives an automatic bid to the Division III NCAA Tournament.
PSU finished with a 23-17 record last season, including a visit to the ECAC New England Tournament, its fourth straight post-season berth. Plymouth State has posted winning records each of its 10 varsity seasons.
2006 PSU Women's Volleyball Outlook
Plymouth State will have a different look in 2006. The heart of the team the past three seasons, Kelly Landry, Becky Ciulla and Amanda Bagwell, have all graduated and the Panther line-up will feature several new faces.
The Panthers have shared the last two Little East Conference regular season titles, and won the LEC Tournament in 2004. Head Coach Moira Long (left), now in her ninth season, says the Panthers have the potential to be just as competitive this season, even with all the new faces.
"Before pre-season, we weren't sure what to expect, losing six players from last year and adding seven, and anticipating a different style of play," says Long, "but we have some really athletic, talented players who are ready to step in and contribute right now."
"I think there's a good mix on this year's team," adds Long. "We have several key returnees who will be on the court, but we'll have some newcomers out there as well."
Long is pleased with the offensive unit, with several hitters expected to contribute. The returnees include juniors Kirsten Willoughby (Plymouth, N.H./Plymouth Reg.) and Kaitlyn Collins (Mahwah, N.J.) and sophomore Michaela Del Rosso (East Providence, R.I./East Providence), while a strong group of newcomers includes sophomore Regan Bowlen (Portsmouth, N.H.) and freshmen Eliza Badeau (Foster, R.I./Ponaganset) and Kathy Frankowski (Unionville, Conn./Farmington).
"We have several new players who are adapting to our style of play and can put the ball away," says Long. "We have so much flexibility and balance, people who can play two or three positions and people who can fill roles."
PSU will look to freshman setter Brianna Kleckner (Terryville, Conn.) to run the offense. She comes from a strong background and Long is confident she can handle the job.
Sophomore Sarah Spears (Meredith, N.H./Inter-Lakes) and junior Kimmy Tobyne (Bedford, N.H./West) give the Panthers a pair of strong defensive specialists. Long says the key to the PSU defense is at the net.
"I expect our blocking to be very good," says Long. "Everything starts with the block on defense. We're so athletic, and that will carry over into defense."
"Our expectations are the same as they always are," says Long, "to compete for the Little East Conference Championship and I think we're in a position to do that."
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