By Collin Bolebruch and Liam Sample
The Plattsburgh women’s tennis team traveled to the Binghamton Tennis Center to play its last three conference games of the season, taking on three opponents in three days from Oct. 6 to Oct 8.
The stretch of games would determine the result of its SUNYAC season. The Cardinals (6-5) won two matches, but fell to the Geneseo Knights (4-5) by one game Oct. 7.
Plattsburgh finished the weekend eliminated from the playoffs, just shy of a postseason berth. For the second straight season, Plattsburgh finished fifth in the SUNYAC standings, one spot out of qualifying.
“We really were just excited. We wanted to show ourselves, wanted to prove ourselves and we were so close to getting the SUNYAC [playoffs] at that point,” senior Cydney Bond said. “We just needed to win, it was right there. We were just pumped up. We wanted to show everyone what we have and don’t underestimate Plattsburgh.”
The Cardinals began its trip by taking on the Brockport Golden Eagles (2-8), who sat below Plattsburgh in the SUNYAC standings. Both teams were in desperate need of a win in a tight race for a playoff bid.
“Once [the team] realized how close we were to playoffs, there was definitely a shift in energy,” Head Coach Kelci Henn said. “It really lit the fire under them and the energy was very apparent. We were hungry during practices, to put it lightly. It was definitely much more of a competitive edge that they had. They were ready to go, they were more active on their feet, they were kind of really taking in everything we said, every criticism.”
Plattsburgh wasted no time setting a precedent and winning two of its doubles matches. Bond and junior Sara Benowitz, who were paired together for the first time this season after junior Hallie Hurwitz missed games because of illness, fell to Brockport’s top duo.
The Cardinals responded by taking the next doubles match, with senior Alyana Leandry and junior Jackie Svantner picking up their second straight win together. Junior sisters Nicole and Samantha Svantner put together a shutout, winning 8-0.
In singles, Plattsburgh kept its momentum. After Bond dropped her match to Brockport junior Eliza Gonzalez, the team won the next five singles matches and capped it off with Leandry winning the tiebreaker third set against first-year Golden Eagle Olivia Raschiatore.
The Cardinals took the match 8-2 and were just one game behind .500 in conference play. The next match was the biggest of its season. It took on Geneseo, who occupied the final playoff spot with a 3-2 record. A Plattsburgh win would have tied the teams in the SUNYAC standings with one conference game left each.
Plattsburgh started with a win over the Knights, when Nicole and Samantha Svantner beat Geneseo’s third doubles pair 8-1, another big win by the pair. The Cardinals dropped the next two doubles matches to make the score 1-2.
The Cardinals began to fight back when Jackie Svantner won her singles game to tie the match. The Knights turned the tides quickly, winning the next three straight singles matches. Despite a close final set, Geneseo senior Kylie Seiler edged out Leandry to clinch the match for the Knights. Benowitz and Nicole Svantner won their singles match to make the overall score a 4-5 loss. Last season, Geneseo beat Plattsburgh 9-0.
“It was really cool to see the progression. It’s hard in tennis to see, ‘alright, are we getting better?’ The scores show. That was probably my favorite moment,” Bond said.
Plattsburgh didn’t only lose the game, but also a chance to compete in the playoffs. The Cardinals kept its head high as they took on the Fredonia Blue Devils (0-12) the next day.
Plattsburgh started the day with yet another win from Nicole and Samantha Svantner, who were undefeated in doubles in the weekend. Leandry and Jackie Svantner picked up a win of their own. Bond and Benowitz dropped their match in nip and tuck fashion, losing 6-8.
In singles, Plattsburgh controlled play. Benowitz, Nicole Svantner and Jackie Svantner, all won their matches to go undefeated in singles play throughout the weekend.
“[Henn] said she was so proud of us,” Benowitz said. “We aren’t normally allowed to have sweets the day before a match and we were able to get milkshakes at the one place we wanted to.”
For her efforts, Benowitz was awarded as one of two “Cardinals of the Week” by the SUNY Plattsburgh Athletic Department.
“I like to look up who I’m playing,” Benowitz said. “Hitting up with a better player helps me get into that mindset of ‘you can do this’ and heading with big people who hit bigger. I was learning how to read the ball well.”
Bond got her first singles win of the weekend against Fredonia’s top singles player, senior Bella Surma. Leandry and Bond are the team’s only seniors and finish with 3-4 and 2-4 singles conference records, respectively.
“The last couple of matches, they all rushed the court every time one of their teammates won,” Henn said. “The team spirit was just felt by all of them and we got compliments across the board from all the other coaches about how we carried ourselves.”
The Cardinals finished its conference season with a 3-4 record, identical to last season. The team came home and beat the Russell Sage Gators (5-8) by a score of 5-4 Oct. 12. Plattsburgh takes on Saint Michael’s Purple Knights (0-7) Oct. 14 at 4 p.m. in its final match of the season.
“I think from last year to this year, we’ve made so many improvements and it’s really clear. I can tell the girls put the work in over the summer,” Henn said. “We’re just getting smarter, we’re getting faster and I’m very excited to see what we can do next year.”