PLYMOUTH, N.H. - The Plymouth State University women's volleyball team is anticipating a strong season in 2008, one that might include another 20-win season and a Little East Conference championship.
The new campaign gets underway this weekend when the Panthers travel to Waterville, Maine, for the Colby College Invitational. PSU will meet Gordon College on Friday at 8:00 p.m. in the opener, and then face Colby at noon on Saturday and Husson College at 4:00 p.m.
Plymouth State will host its annual tournament, the Days Inn of Campton Tournament, the following weekend, Sept. 12-13, at Foley Gymnasium. It will be the seventh straight year that PSU has hosted an early-season tournament. The Panthers captured the 2002, 2004, 2006 and 2007 tournament titles, with Williams College claiming the championship 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 six 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 is seeking its first LEC Tournament championship since 2004.
2008 PSU Women's Volleyball Outlook
The Panthers have 11 returning veterans from last year's team that finished with a 20-12 overall record and earned the program's sixth consecutive post-season berth with a spot in the ECAC New England Tournament. The core of the team is back, according to 11th-year head coach Moira Long, and the Panthers are optimistic about the season.
"We should be competing for the top of the conference," said Long (right). "We return most of our starters, and we are strong in the middle position. We have an all-conference setter, and the strength of our team is defense and serving."
PSU has finished in third place in the LEC the past two seasons after sharing regular season titles in 2004 and 2005. Coach Long is hoping this year's team can get back to the top.
"We have to work on being mentally tough," said Long. "We have to bring our ‘A' game to the important matches. That will help us close out the tough matches."
Leading the Panthers on defense is senior libero Sarah Spears (Meredith, N.H./Inter-Lakes), the 2007 Little East Defensive Player of the Year. She led the conference with over five digs per game and is relentless in the backcourt.
"She is like a rock back there," said Long. "She is not going to let the ball hit the floor and she is not going to accept that from any of her teammates."
Senior Regan Bowlen (Portsmouth, N.H.) and junior Kathy Frankowski (Farmington, Conn.) are also strong backcourt players for PSU and rank among the conference's top servers.
"We read and react to where the ball is going," said Long, "and fill in the holes."
Coach Long admits that both the defense and the offense will center around the middle hitting tandem of juniors Eliza Badeau (Foster, R.I./Ponaganset) and Carly Newton (Centerville, Mass./Barnstable). Badeau is a two-time All-LEC Second Team selection who led the conference last season in hitting percentage and finished second in kills. Newton is a transfer from Keene State College, where she ranked in the top five in the conference in both kills and hitting percentage.
"Eliza had incredible numbers last year, even though she missed eight matches with an injury," said Long, "and Carly solidifies our middle very nicely."
PSU has several outside hitters who can do the job. Senior Wendy Dziedzic (Nashua, N.H.), junior Megan Elliott (West Haven, Conn.) and freshman Meghan Sullivan (Marlton, N.J./Cherokee) should see plenty of action, while Bowlen, junior Amanda Greene (Stratford, Conn./Bunnell) and senior Michaela Rupp (East Providence, R.I.) can also fill in on the right side.
Coach Long is expecting another strong season from junior setter Brianna Kleckner (Terryville, Conn.), who was a Second Team All-LEC selection last year. Sophomore Sarah Cady (Holliston, Mass.) has improved and will push for more playing time.
"Brianna has continued to mature and improve," said Long. "She has a better understanding of the position and better leadership skills and has more confidence in herself."
Among the top freshmen for PSU, according to Long, middle hitter Elissa Morin (Nashua, N.H./Nashua North) and defensive specialist Alex Avery (Milton, N.H./Nute).
"The ladies are working very hard," said Long, "and we're looking forward to an outstanding season.
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