PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University women's volleyball season gets underway this weekend when the Panthers host the annual season-opening tournament at Foley Gymnasium.
PSU will host five other schools in the Days Inn of Campton Volleyball Tournament this Friday and Saturday - Emerson College, Newbury College, Mount Ida College, Lasell University and Bates College. Pool play starts at 4:00 p.m. on Friday and continues with another round at 6:00 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.
This is the sixth straight year that PSU has hosted a season-opening tournament. The Panthers captured the 2002, 2004 and 2006 tournament titles, with Williams College claiming the title in 2003 and Clark University winning the event in 2005.
This weekend's action will be the first of five 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 won the LEC Tournament championship in 2004 and shared conference regular season titles in 2004 and 2005.
2007 PSU Women's Volleyball Outlook
The Panthers went through a big transition year last season, with no seniors on the team and many new and young players taking the court. This year, those players return as experienced veterans and 10th-year head coach Moira Long (left) thinks the Panthers can contend for the top of the LEC.
"The experience they've gained all of last season and in the spring has made a big difference in our offense and our defense," said Long. "Last year we were so young, but this year I think we're right there. We have what it takes to win it, but we have to keep working hard."
PSU finished in the three-way tie for third place in the LEC last season, along with Keene State and Western Connecticut. The Panthers advanced to the post-season for the fifth straight season, participating in the ECAC New England Tournament.
With no seniors on last year's team, the Panthers have everyone back this fall. Leading the group of returnees are a pair of sophomores who were Second Team All-LEC selections last season as freshmen, middle hitter Eliza Badeau (Foster, R.I./Ponaganset) and setter Brianna Kleckner (Terryville, Conn.)
Badeau was one of the top hitters and blockers in the conference. She led PSU in kills (3.29 per game) and hitting percentage (.285), which both ranked third in the LEC, and she topped the Panthers in blocks (1.00 per game), which tied for fourth in the conference. Kleckner ran the Panther offense and led the LEC in assists with 9.62 per game. She also ranked eighth in the conference in service aces (0.62 per game).
"Eliza made a huge impact in the LEC as a freshman and we expect more of the same from her this year," said Long. "She's strong offensively and contributes a great deal to the defense with her blocking. Brianna has done a good job and we look for her continue improving her decision making."
PSU also has a pair of strong defensive specialists returning in senior Kim Tobyne (Manchester, N.H./West) and junior Sarah Spears (Meredith, N.H./Inter-Lakes).
"They've been working together for two years and they really have it down," said Long. "They're a big asset for us back there."
Other hitters who are expected to contribute to the Panthers are senior Kirsten Willoughby (Plymouth, N.H.) and juniors Regan Bowlen (Portsmouth, N.H.) and Wendy Dziedzic (Nashua, N.H./South). A couple other veterans or one of the newcomers could also emerge and see some playing time, according to Long.
"It has been night and day compared to last year," said Long. "We had so many new ladies last year and we spent a lot of time learning the system. This year we're all more comfortable as a team and yet we're still working very hard."
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