The SUNY Plattsburgh women’s basketball team is looking ahead to its first game of the season this weekend against Drew University.

The Cardinals ended last season eighth in the SUNYAC with a 7-11 record and missed the tournament.

Over the offseason, the team lost guard Bella DePasquale, who graduated last year. She was selected to the SUNYAC All-Conference third team for 2018-19 season. DePasquale left her mark on the program by breaking the team’s three-point field goal record with 238 scored in her collegiate career.

Nine returners from last season welcomed five freshmen players to the team. The newcomers include guards Kanesha Strider and Mya Smith and forwards Kara Oatman, Hannah Ruberto and Misa Dowdell.

The upperclassmen Cardinals started training and bonding with the freshmen since August.

The official training with the coaches started three weeks ago. The training is more structured and a higher pace with the coaches. Head coach Cheryl Cole said she has been pushing the tempo and conditioning of the team.

With a deeper bench this year, Cole believes it helped the coaches guide the team to its goal. She wants the team to run, push in transition, press and be aggressive on the offensive end.

Cole said the returners have done a good job in developing group chemistry and pushing the tempo within the team. She said the coaches rely on the upperclassmen to make the transition from high school to college smoother for the freshmen.

“It’s a really important time to help the freshmen get on board and get comfortable here in Plattsburgh,” Cole said. “Your team becomes your family away from home.”

Cole said a smooth transition helps the freshmen to focus and help the team on the floor.

Point guard Ly’rell Walker, academically a senior, said the team is attentive and ready to learn.

Walker and the team have been working hard to prepare for the season. Cole said the team is anxious but excited to play in its first game of the season this weekend.

“That’s the game we’re used to see where we stand as a team, to see what we still have to work on,” Walker said.

She also said the team is looking to win both games this week but it will focus more on the player’s contribution to the team and skills to work on throughout the season.

“You need opponents. You need somebody else [who] doesn’t know all your stuff to expose where our weaknesses are and let them show where our strengths are,” Cole said.

The team is looking to work its way up to winning the SUNYAC tournament and hopefully go into the NCAA tournament. Walker said the players are putting in their work, focus, time and energy toward the goal.

“[The freshmen] came in and picked up automatically what we want to do and what we work towards as a team,” Walker said.

Cole said the team is always brand new in a way every season, with everyone having a fresh start. She said it is always a major learning curve for freshmen between high school defense and college defense.

“I tell them, ‘Right now, just be a sponge. Learn from your upperclassmen. Learn from the people who have developed through this process,’” Cole said.

Cole said with the returners fully understanding the game, it is important to keep the freshmen developing up to the upperclassmen’s level.

For this season, Walker is looking to play well, stay healthy and help the team the best she can.

“The more I help everyone else, the more I help myself get better, see what I have to work on,” Walker said.

Walker said it is a long season and people get tired, but it is important for the team to stay strong and push forward as one.

Cole expects the team to compete and push the tempo to make its opponents uncomfortable. She wants the team to play hard and play smart. She wants the team to be the better conditioned and more aggressive team on the floor and win hustle plays.

Even though Cole wants the team to win the SUNYAC tournament, she said the team

should not lose sight of the process. She said it is important to get better each day, individually and as a team, and pay attention to the details.

“Have no regrets every day. Don’t waste time,” Cole said to her time. “If you are going to be here, be all here, be all in, physically and mentally, give all your best every time you walk out there.”

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