PAWTUCKET, R.I. – The Little East Conference began sponsoring women’s soccer in 1990 and the Plymouth State Panthers women’s program took off and dominated the league, winning the Little East Conference regular season championship in each of the first eight seasons between 1990-1997.
During the eight-year championship run, the Panthers combined for an overall 33-1-1 record against Little East opponents. The program didn’t lose its first LEC match until a 1-0 loss to the University of Southern Maine in 1996, equating to a 23-0-1 record in the first 24 Little East matches
Led by former head coach Nancy Feldman, the Panthers achieved five straight NCAA appearances, six overall, as a Little East Conference member. Although women’s soccer wasn’t sponsored until 1990, the Panthers also advanced to four straight NCAA tournament appearances between 1986-1989.
The Panthers advanced to the NCAA Final Four in 1991 and then broke through to reach the NCAA Championship game in 1993. The Panthers were unable to claim the NCAA Championship as they dropped a 1-0 decision to Rochester in the 1991 Final Four and dropped the 1993 Championship match 4-0 to Trenton State.
The Panthers program was one of only two schools to advance to the first nine NCAA Division III Championships from 1986-1994.
There are seven members of the Plymouth State women’s soccer program in the Panthers Athletic Hall of Fame. Notable members of the successful Panthers teams include Mary-Bridget Pawlik Blandini ’94 (Hall of Fame ’99), Deb Biche ’92 (Hall of Fame ’00); Stacey Freda ’95 (Hall of Fame ’04); Randy Jennings Swormstedt ’94 (Hall of Fame ’05); Beth Field ’93 (Hall of Fame ’10); Traci Walker Griffith '91 (Hall of Fame ’13); and Kristin Mainella '93 (Hall of Fame ’16).
Mary-Bridget Pawlik Blandini was inducted into the Little East Conference Hall of Fame in 2014 and was announced as an LEC 30th Anniversary Top Influencer earlier this year on October, 28, 2016. Biche was named the Little East Conference’s first ever Player of the Year in 1990 and repeated as the conference’s top player in 1991.
Former head coach Feldman is now in her 22nd year as women’s soccer coach at Boston University, earning 12 Tournament Championships and 13 NCAA Tournament appearances.
The historic competitive success the LEC has achieved throughout the 30 years, beginning as a basketball only conference in 1986 and expanding into today’s 19-Championship Sport Conference, will continue to make academic and athletic strides as the LEC continues to be the premier Division III conference of the New England region.
The Little East Conference was formed in 1986 when six public institutions gathered to create a single sport athletic conference and has expanded into what is now New England’s premier athletic conference for public institutions in NCAA Division III. The LEC features 19 Championship Sports and sponsors quality competition in every season for our student athletes while following the Division III mission of passion, responsibility, sportsmanship and citizenship.