PLYMOUTH, N.H. – The Plymouth State University women’s lacrosse team opens up the 2006 campaign this Saturday with a non-conference game at Babson College (1:00 p.m.)
The Panthers are led by second-year head coach Paula Habel (below), who welcomes back a dozen veterans from last year’s team, including nine starters and five All-Conference performers. PSU has made six consecutive post-season appearances, including last spring when the Panthers captured the ECAC New England Championship.
PSU will play its first six games on the road, including three during a spring break trip to Florida, before the home opener the first week in April. PSU has a 16-game regular season slate on tap, including six Little East Conference games. The annual LEC Tournament is the first week in May, with the winner receiving an automatic bid into the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament.
PSU is coming off a strong season in 2005, when they finished 13-5 overall and captured the ECAC New England title for the second time in three years. The Panthers won their fourth consecutive Little East Conference regular season title and finished runner-up in the conference tournament.
2006 PSU Women’s Lacrosse Outlook
“We’re returning a strong core of experienced players from last year’s team,” says Habel. “We have a lot of firepower on offense, but we will have a bigger challenge on defense.”
Leading the offense will be junior midfielder Kelsey MacDonald (Oak Bluffs, Mass.), the 2005 LEC Offensive Player of the Year. She scored 40 goals last year and picked up 95 ground balls. She gets plenty of offensive support from senior attack Bethany Brown (Norwich, Conn.), a two-time First Team All-LEC pick who is one of PSU’s all-time leading scorers with 147 career goals.
Three other veteran attackers who will contribute to the offense include senior Caitlyn Irving (Avon, Conn.) and juniors Meg Cupoli (Southboro, Mass.) and Liz Boddy (Brentwood, N.H.). All three reached a career-high in goals last season, with Irving scoring 15, Cupoli 20 and Boddy 25.
Joining MacDonald as offensive standouts in the midfield are senior co-captain Nicole Evans (Scituate, Mass.), a two-time All-Conference selection and junior Annie Pinault (Framingham, Mass.) Evans has scored 57 goals the past two seasons, while Pinault tallied a career-high 25 goals last season. Freshman Cassidy Barry (Branford, Conn.) looks like the top newcomer.
Junior co-captain Amanda Spadafora (Saratoga Springs, N.Y.), a two-time All-LEC selection, is a top defensive midfielder, along with sophomore Jackie Connerty (Nashua, N.H.), who had a solid rookie campaign in 2005.
PSU has two returning starters of defense, led by senior co-captain Meghan O’Neil (Scituate, Mass.), a three-time All-LEC selection. She is joined by senior Hillary Arthur (Essex Jct., Vt.) and sophomore Jenna Kelly (Wayne, Pa.), who has improved a great deal after seeing limited action last season.
A solid group of freshman newcomers also includes defender Kathleen Pacheco (Salem, N.H.), midfielders Caitlin Hughes (St. Johnsbury, Vt.) and Ellen Parent (Hampton, N.H.) and attackers Melissa Dark (Peterborough, N.H.) and Sarah Bryant (Arrowsic, Maine).
PSU’s biggest challenge is between the pipes. The Panthers have no returning goalies, but Habel is confident freshman Lindsay DeLorie (Holliston, Mass.) and sophomore Sarah Beebe (Rumson, N.J.) can handle the job.
“We have strong starters all over the field and strong leadership,” said Habel, “which will help us overcome a lack of depth. We want to win the conference championship back. We have the experience of six straight play-off berths. Hopefully this year will be lucky number seven.”
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