The Plattsburgh State women’s basketball team split its first two SUNYAC games of the season, with a win against the Fredonia Blue Devils and a narrow loss against the Buffalo State Bengals. Following those games, the Cardinals began a nine-game road trip with a loss to Middlebury College. The Cards will resume their SUNYAC schedule tonight at 5:30 p.m. with a match against the Brockport Golden Eagles, followed by another road game tomorrow at Geneseo.
“I thought this was the best two games we’ve put together so far.” head coach Cheryl Cole said about the Fredonia and Buffalo State games.
Seemingly rebounding from the offensive struggles of its last game against the St. Lawrence Saints, in which PSUC scored only 26 points, the Cards responded by scoring 65 points against Fredonia and 62 points against Buffalo State.
Junior forward Frannie Merkel and sophomore guard Brooke Benna each had key performances against the Blue Devils.
Merkel led the Cards to its first win of the season in its game against Fredonia. She ended her night with 20 points, 15 rebounds, five assists and five blocks.
Benna came off the bench and finished with 13 points in 22 minutes of play, all the while firing an efficient 4-6 clip from the field, which included a pair of crucial three-pointers down the stretch.
Benna has been a key reserve for PSUC in the team’s rotation; providing offense off the bench is her calling card.
“I try to be relaxed and composed and play my game and just be an asset,” Benna said.
The Cards were eager for a win. Starting 0-3 on the season, PSUC wanted to take advantage of the remaining two home games before entering a strenuous nine-game road trip.
“I hadn’t been playing my best so personally I was clearing my head just getting ready” Merkel said of her boxscore-stuffing performance.
Cole sees last Friday’s game against Fredonia as a look into what the team is capable of, but knows they have more milestones to reach before they achieve their full potential.
“It’s something for us to build on,” Cole said. “It’s just one game though, but it was a big game. It was our first conference game, so that was huge.”
Merkel’s performance played a large part in the team’s fluid offense.
“We had a great complement between our inside game and our outside game.” Cole said.
That was mostly due to Merkel’s impact on the court.
“When she relaxes and keeps it simple,” Cole said. “you can’t guard her one on one.”
Merkel’s performance demanded special attention from the Blue Devil’s defense, at times making them send double and even triple teams Merkel’s way. This allowed extra spacing for PSUC’s shooters, resulting in a collective 64 percent shooting from beyond the arc.
The Cards’ next game came one day later, when the Buffalo State Bengals beat PSUC 63-62.
Being such a young team, with eight freshmen on the roster, the Cards learned plenty of lessons as the game clock expired.
As a team, PSUC committed 13 turnovers, but mishandled the ball at crucial moments down the stretch and handed the game to the Bengals.
Despite the loss, Cole was impressed with team’s show of “heart and guts” as the game wound toward the end.
Heading into an intimidating road trip as an inexperienced team, Cole said that it is important for the team to understand “It’s us versus everybody else. Nobody’s rooting for us now,” and they must find confidence in each other to win games on the road.
“We’re so young, we’re just learning so much,” Cole said, “All I can ask is that we get better everyday we walk on the floor, and we’re doing that”.
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