The Plattsburgh State men’s lacrosse team kicked off its 2018 season with a 12-4 win at home against Castleton University Wednesday. The defending SUNYAC champions now head into a five-game stretch on the road to set the tone for the new season.
The Cardinals (1-0) will begin that road schedule with a trip to Saratoga, New York to take on Skidmore College (1-1) tomorrow at 1 p.m.
“We are going to have to continue to keep our composure on offense, and hit some more of our shots,” said Joe May, PSUC head coach. “I think Skidmore is a little more athletic of a team.”
The Cards then travel to Clarkson University on Wednesday at 4 p.m. before taking on Wheaton College in a game on March 10 at Saint Anthony’s High School, the alma mater of PSUC junior captain Nick Della Ratta. The Cards will then visit Swarthmore College and Middlebury College before their next home contest on March 28 against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
This season is different than any previous season for PSUC; It is the first time the Cards enter a season as defending SUNYAC champions, having won on the road at SUNY Cortland in 2017.“I think it meant a lot to a lot of people,” May said. “I spent the entire bus ride home from Cortland replying to texts and phone calls from alumni and fellow coaches.”
May credited the previous players that have played for PSUC lacrosse for fostering a culture that made a championship possible.
“If you come here, you are going to get a shot to play with the big boys,” May said. “And you are going to get a chance to knock them off.
The team is aware that they cannot get stuck looking to last year if they intend to repeat as champions.
“Winning felt great, but we can’t ride on that the whole time,” senior captain Sean Hayes said. “We’ve got to do it again.”
If the Cards want to win another SUNYAC title, they will have to do it without Ryan Callahan’s 69 points or Kyle Espejo’s 64 ground balls.
May feels that the seniors’ attitude and “infectious” energy will be missed more than any points or statistics.
“I think we have guys who can score goals like [Callahan] could,” May said. “But I don’t think we have guys who can make you want to play better every day in practice like he did.”
One key player still on the roster is 2017 SUNYAC player of the year Ryan Hubbard, who led the team with 51 goals last season. Hubbard does not see himself trying to repeat or improve that tally this year.
“This year, I’m stepping into a different role,” Hubbard said. “I’m going to have to be more of a facilitator.”
Hubbard scored five goals and one assist in the season opener Wednesday.
Also returning is face-off specialist Travis Mauro, who shared the faceoffs in 2017 with Joe Eiseman
Eiseman has decided, after dealing with concussions, to serve as an assistant coach this season instead of playing his final season of eligibility. May does not see this as a concern.
“[Mauro] is one of the seniors that I know I can rely on to bring it every single day,” May said. “He is going to play a huge role in our success this year.”
Two more seniors with an opportunity to play major roles for the Cards are goalies Austin Graham and Donald Tesoriero. The pair shared time in goal last season, and May said that competition between the two is still tight this year.
“There are two legitimate high-quality starting goalies on this team,” May said. “That’s a good problem to have.”
It was Graham who got the start in the crease on Wednesday as PSUC got off to a winning start with a victory against the Spartans of Castleton University.
“If you look at this game on paper, it’s going to say Plattsburgh only won the game 12-4,” May said. “We controlled that game from start to finish.”
The Cards were pleased with the win, and especially with their offensive play.
“After last year, we have some really high expectations, and we wanted to come out strong,” Hubbard said. “I feel like we put on a good show. Everyone did their job and we did what we needed to do.”
PSUC led total shots 51-25 and May gave credit to Castleton goalie Brandon Myron for his performance in keeping the score from being more one-sided.
“Their goalie had 17 saves, and I think that number might even be a little low to be honest,” May said. “The kid stood on his head for his team.”
Defensively, despite restricting the Spartans’ shots and allowing only four goals, the Cards saw room for improvement.
“Sometimes we’re quiet and don’t all know what we’re doing,” Hayes said. “If we can talk more, we could get better and get shutouts.”
PSUC is happy to carry the momentum of a win in the season opener as it goes into a challenging road schedule. The Cards know that defending their conference championship will require focus in every contest along the way.
“I think we can beat every team on our schedule,” Mays said. “I also think we can lose to every team on our schedule.”
Email Nathanael LePage at firstname.lastname@example.org