PLYMOUTH, N.H. — A nine-game winning streak, which included the team title at the Salisbury State Invitational, a 15-4 overall regular season record, being the top seed and hosting a New England regional play-off tournament, and making a fifth consecutive post-season appearance were just some of the highlights for the 1997 Plymouth State College field hockey season.
The Panthers finished the season with an impressive 16-5 overall record under sixth-year head coach Wynn Hohlt, and narrowly missed an NCAA Tournament berth. Instead, PSC hosted the ECAC Tournament, and after knocking off Southern Maine in the opening round, fell to rival Keene State on penalty strokes in the semi-finals, 1-0. Ironically, the Panthers lost to Keene 1-0 less than a month earlier, which arguably was the reason why PSC missed an NCAA berth.
“Beating Springfield (earlier in the season) was obviously a high, and although we’ve only been playing them for four years, ithas become quite a rivalry,” said Hohlt. “And winning the SunFest Tournament, which included a first-ever win over Salisbury State, was huge.”
“The first loss to Keene State was a disappointment,” added Hohlt. “In response to the loss, however, we rebounded and won the remaining games on our schedule, including a huge win over Middlebury. We thought we had a good chance to make the NCAAs at 15-4, knowing that we were on a roll and that we had defeated Springfield and Salisbury State earlier in the season.”
PSC had a veteran squad in ‘97, led by 11 seniors who combined to score 45 of the team’s 56 goals.
“We really had great depth and leadership this season,” said Hohlt. “We had six players that scored six goals or better. We were always able to keep fresh legs on the field.”
The Panthers used a rotation of players at the forward position. Senior Erin Murphy (Collinsville, CT), a First Team New England West Regional All-American in ’97 after transferring from the University of Rhode Island, led all PSC scorers with 13 goals and 10 assists. Senior Jenna Shearstone (Taunton, MA), who connected on nine goals and assisted on six others, and classmate Jen Garrity (Greene, ME), who found the net four times, held down starting roles with sophomore Jill Sutherland (Gloucester, MA), but got help off the bench from seniors Taryn Turcotte (South Berwick, ME) and Tammi LeRoy (Barre, VT) and junior Kim Webster (Dover, NH). Sutherland, Turcotte, and LeRoy all contributed to the offense with six goals apiece.
PSC was strong in the midfield area, led by seniors Jen Martin (Saunderstown, RI) and Carrie Killeen (Greenfield, MA). Martin earned New England West Regional All-America honors and chipped in with six goals, and Killeen, a tri-captain and all-around standout, wrapped up a superb four-year career. Also starting in the midfield was junior Boni Sordillo (Plymouth, NH).
The Panther defensive unit often went unnoticed, but was a big key to the success of the team. Led by junior center back Sarah Mello (Oak Bluffs, MA), a First Team Regional and Third Team All-America, and flanked by starters Laura Hebert (Spencer, MA) and Shanna Bickford (Dover, NH) and reserves Betsy Gilbert (Barre, VT) and Michele Wilgoren (Barre, VT), the Panthers shut out 12 opponents completely, allowing only 16 goals all season. The PSC defense surrendered only 133 shots on goal, while the Panthers were firing 317 on their opponents.
Junior goaltender Chris Perruzi (South Portland, ME) played every minute of every game in ’97. She posted an impressive 0.69 goals against average and made 112 saves. She set the all-time PSC record for shutouts in a single season with 12.
Key returnees for the Panthers next season, according to Hohlt, will be Mello and Bickford on defense and Sutherland, Webster and Holly Laratta (Toms River, NJ) at forward. The most experience returning will be in the midfield, where Sordillo and three other varsity veterans will shoulder the load to keep the Panther winning tradition alive — Sarah Dodge (Sanbornton, NH), Amanda Murphy (Collinsville, CT), and Kerri Tarpy (Biddeford, ME).
Hohlt claims that the loss of 11 seniors is not as scary as it might appear to be.
“We will miss our seniors, but we have good players returning as well,” she said. “I think a lot people are counting us out for the 1998 season, but I think we may surprise a lot of people.”