Let The Season Begin!
'KEENE, N.H. 8/30/07 - Keene State men's and women's soccer teams begin their respective seasons with tournament play this weekend. The KSC men host the WEGOTSOCCER-Diadora Soccer Showdown and the Owl women travel to New York for the Cortland State Invitational.
The Diadora Tournament returns after a one year hiatus. The Owls hosted the tournament from 2002-05. This year's tourney has a pre-determined schedule. On Saturday, Worcester (Mass.) State kicks off play against Hobart (N.Y.) College at Noon. The Owls take on Ithaca College at 2:30 p.m. The teams switch opponents on Sunday with Worcester State facing Ithaca (12 p.m.) and KSC going up against Hobart (2:30 p.m.). Hobart is ranked 18th in the NSCAA Division III pre-season poll.
"I think this is going to be quite an opening season tournament for us," said Keene State Coach Ron Butcher, who returns for his 37th season on the Owls' bench. "Three of the teams (KSC, Hobart and Ithaca) were all ranked nationally and regionally last season and Worcester State has some excellent recruits."
The tournament has been feast or famine for the Owls. In 2002, KSC dropped games to Hobart and Rowan University. In 2005, the Owls feasted on Husson (4-0) and New England College (8-1).
"I prefer a tough opening tournament because you can find out where you stand," said Butcher, who guided the Owls to a 15-6-1 record, a LEC tournament title, and NCAA berth last season. "A few years a go, we beat up some teams but weren't ready when we faced a tougher opponent."
This weekend's tournament will be for bragging rights among former Keene State and Plymouth State adversaries. Hobart Coach Shawn Griffin played and coached at PSC, Ithaca's Andy Byrne and Butcher are former Panther players, and Christian Battaglia, a former Owl striker, is in his third season coaching the Lancers of Worcester State.
Set to begin her 16th season as head coach of the Keene State women's soccer team, Denise Lyons says the Owls are anxious to get going. "The returnees came back in great shape and the freshmen class is one of my deepest," she said.
The Owl roster includes 13 first-year players.
Keene State, which finished 15-8 last season and advanced to the semifinals of the ECA Tournament, will have to be early risers this weekend. Both Saturday's game against Cortland and Sunday's contest vs. Nazareth College from Rochester, N.Y., are scheduled to start at 11 a.m.
Despite posting a 9-7-3 mark last fall, the Golden Flyers of Nazareth captured the Empire-8 tournament championship and NCAA berth. Cortland finished 10-8-1 in the SUNYAC.
The Keene State women's volleyball and field hockey teams also begin play this weekend. The Owl volleyball team is at the Western New England Tournament and the KSC field hockey team hosts Nichols College on Saturday (5 p.m.).
The Keene State Harriers get set for their season by hosting an alumni meet at Owl athletic complex on Saturday (11 a.m.).