PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The players and coaches have changed, but the women’s soccer program at Plymouth State College has remained constant — as in constantly a top team in New England and usually a national contender.
The Panthers, who made nine consecutive NCAA Tournament appearances from 1986-94, earned their first invitation to the NCAAs under head coach Marti Kingsley in ’97. Kingsley had led PSC to the ECAC Tournament in her first two seasons, but made the leap back to the NCAAs this fall and earning Kingsley New England Coach of the Year honors.
In fact, Kingsley led the Panthers to the No. 1 ranking in New England by early November, and when the regular season ended, PSC had completed a 15-2 campaign and earned the right to host the NCAA New England Regional Tournament.
The regional semi-finals did not, however, go as well as the regular season for Plymouth State. The Panthers battled fourth-seeded Colby College to a 2-2 deadlock through two overtimes at Panther Field, but the White Mules eliminated PSC on the second round of overtime penalty kicks, 4-3.
The Panthers, 15-2-1 overall, also went 5-2 in Little East Conference games, but it wasn’t enough to earn an eighth consecutive title as LEC newcomer Keene State broke PSC’s championship string.
“We’re pleased with the season we had,” said Kingsley, who is 41-12-6 in three years at PSC. “We attained several of our team goals, and have set the stage to have another outstanding season next year. We were very excited to return to the NCAA Tournament, which I believe was a positive experience for everyone.”
Kingsley points to this year’s senior leadership as the factor which led PSC back on track and into the NCAAs. Co-captains Paula Dudley (Windham, NH) and Cece Glover (Hanover, NH) along with Chrissy Hickey (Marlboro, MA) and Danielle Paradis (Londonderry, NH), who were all part of the last PSC team to make the NCAAs in ‘94, played big roles on this year’s team.
Perhaps the biggest role, however, was played by freshman Carrie Poulin (Westfield, MA). The rookie striker came in and dominated collegiate competition from the start. She scored at least one goal in her first six games, including two goals in three straight games. By the time the season ended, she had tallied a school record 22 goals, including both NCAA Tournament scores, and earned honors ranging from Little East Rookie of the Year and All-New England to Second Team All-America.
Poulin was by no means the only scoring threat for the Panthers. Sophomore Caitlin Cook (Cutchogue, NY) scored nine goals and six assists, including a three-goal performance against UMass Dartmouth and a two-goal effort at Eastern Connecticut. Sophomore midfielder Tara Dickson (Vernon, NJ), the team’s leading scorer a year ago, added five goals and four assists, including a pair of goals at Rhode Island College, and earned Second Team All-LEC honors. Junior Lindsay Audette (Belchertown, MA) and freshmen Mary Young (Rockland, MA) and Jessica Branch (West Tisbury, MA) also played offensive roles for PSC.
Dickson led a midfield contingent that also included Paradis, Hickey, and sophomores Erin Pepe (Franklin, MA) and Melanie Jones (Bradford, NH), who all saw time in the starting line-up. Solid reserves included freshmen Kim Koscielecki (Swampscott, MA) and Chrytn Pitt (Freeport, ME).
The Panthers have often had an outstanding defense, and 1997 was no different. PSC allowed just 13 goals in 18 games, while the offense was scoring 55 times, and the shots on goal favored the Panthers, 413-152. The main contributors were rewarded, as sophomore Jackie Blanchard (Plymouth, MA) earned All-New England honors and both Glover and Dudley made the All-Conference Team. They got help from reserves Kellie Biggs (Weymouth, MA), Kristen Maloney (Millis, MA), and freshman Monica Medeiros (Mansfield, MA).
Junior Tanya Rej (Northbridge, MA) and freshman Lisa Goldberg (Newton, MA) split time as PSC’s No. 1 goalkeeper. Rej began the season as the starter, but Goldberg took over by the end of September. Rej finished with a respectable 0.60 goals against average and five shutouts, while Goldberg also had five shutouts and a 0.80 goals against average and earned All-New England accolades.
Rounding out the Panther roster were junior midfielder Erin Fitzgerald (Mansfield, CT) and freshman forward McKenzie McConnell (Pittsfield, VT).