PLYMOUTH, N.H. - Another exciting season is expected this fall when the Plymouth State University women's volleyball team takes the court for the 2009 campaign.
The Panthers will open the season this weekend, Sept. 4-5, in Boston at a tournament co-hosted by Emerson College and Wentworth Institute of Technology. PSU will meet Framingham State College and Salve Regina University Friday at 6:00 and 8:00 p.m., respectively, and Ramapo College and Simmons College Saturday at 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m.
Plymouth State will also host its annual tournament, the Days Inn of Campton Tournament, the following weekend, Sept. 11-12, at Foley Gymnasium. It will be the eighth 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, Clark University winning the event in 2005, and Emerson College taking last year's title.
This weekend's action in Boston 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 is seeking its first LEC Tournament championship since 2004.
2009 PSU Women's Volleyball Outlook
Led by 12th-year head coach Moira Long (right), the Panthers are coming off a season that didn't go as hoped during the regular season, with a fifth-place finish in the Little East Conference, but finished with a bang by capturing the ECAC New England Tournament championship. Coach Long thinks this year's team should pick up from where it left off.
"We're already a better team now than we were last year," said Long. "Almost our entire core is back from last year, except our libero, and we have a sophomore who is taking right over in that spot. We're excited about this year's team."
PSU has 10 returning veterans on the roster of 14, including the top three hitters from last year's squad. Long thinks the Panthers can compete with the top teams in the LEC.
"I think the Little East is pretty balanced this year, several teams could win it," said Long. "I think we'll be in the running."
Leading the way for PSU is senior co-captain and middle hitter Eliza Badeau (Foster, R.I./Ponaganset), a three-time All-LEC Second Team selection. She topped the Panthers and ranked among the conference leaders last season with 3.90 kills and 0.91 blocks per game and a .384 attack percentage. She is primed for a strong senior season.
"Eliza has developed into a phenomenal leader, and has done a great job in bringing the team together," said Long. "She's the one all the other teams try to stop, and she still finds a way to get kills, and defensively, she gets her hands on almost every ball."
Senior Carly Newton (Centerville, Mass./Barnstable) gives the Panthers another force at middle hitter. She averaged 2.55 kills per game in her first year at PSU last season.
"Carly really came on last season once she got more comfortable," said Long. "Most teams have a top player in the middle; With Eliza and Carly, we have 1 and 1A. And they challenge each other and make each other better."
Coach Long admits that outside hitter is where the Panthers need to improve, but is confident that the underclassmen will step up. Freshmen Meagan Farris (Derry, N.H./Pinkerton) and Nicole Shepard (Nashua, N.H./Nashua North) are two of the top competitors for a starting spot. Sophomore Meghan Sullivan (Marlton, N.J./Cherokee) has shown considerable improvement over last season and classmate Elissa Morin (Nashua, N.H./Nashua North) is playing well after returning from an injury. Senior Megan Elliott (West Haven, Conn.) could also contribute.
"We're a little inexperienced in our outside hitters, but they're improving every day and we have confidence in them. It's the little things they need to get better at."
The Panthers have two capable veterans who can handle the setter position. Senior co-captain Brianna Kleckner (Terryville, Conn.) is a former Second Team All-LEC selection who "sets the tempo for us," according to Coach Long, and junior Sarah Cady (Holliston, Mass.), who continues to show improvement with more playing time, "can calm us down when we need it," said Long.
Sophomore defensive specialist Alex Avery (Milton, N.H./Nute) has been impressive and has taken over the libero position from four-year starter Sarah Spears, a former LEC Defensive Player of the Year. Other key players in the PSU back court include senior Kathy Frankowski (Farmington, Conn.) and junior Kelsey Petty (Salem, N.H.)
"Last year we had so much talent, but struggled to get on the same page until it finally came together at the end of the season in the ECAC Tournament," said Long. "Our defense and passing are without a doubt our strength. It we serve tough and pass the ball, good things will happen."
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