Thursday, July 25, 2024

Cardinals gearing up for SUNYAC play

Pitcher Julia Golino playing catch at practice in Clearwater, Florida, March 16.



By Collin Bolebruch

Plattsburgh softball was the best show on campus last spring — it’s been a while since it’s been able to say that. With a drastically different roster, it’s hoping to keep that status.

Softball was the only spring sport to make the playoffs last year. The Cards finished 22-12, earning its best winning percentage, .647, since 2012, when it finished .761 and went to the College World Series.

“I’ve met with players and alumni that have been here, and I’ve heard about the great things we’ve accomplished,” sophomore catcher Gwen Noll said. “I feel like we’re only on the uprise.”

The team was ultimately bounced in the SUNYAC playoffs in extra innings, 2-4 to Cortland and 2-3 to Oneonta in extra innings, but accomplished things the Cardinals haven’t in years.

During the regular season, Plattsburgh swept Cortland 2-0 for the second time ever and the first time in 17 years.

Last year’s squad also produced the most All-Conference selections, four, by a Plattsburgh team since 2017. Senior catcher Rebecca Diller and sophomore shortstop Claire Palmer were named to the first team and senior outfielders Kristen Langdon and Kristina Maggiacomo were named to the second team.

To this Cardinals team, 2017 seems like a distant past. That’s because now-Head Coach Sam Van Dorn was still playing at Cortland when Plattsburgh last had significant conference recognition.

“When I first got here, things were a little rocky. But now we are implementing a lot of positivity,” Van Dorn said. “We’re really at a good place and where we want to be.”

Van Dorn now enters her fourth season at the helm, looking for her third consecutive playoff berth. Van Dorn will be joined by Jessica Miller, assistant coach, for the third-straight season. Assistant Coach Brad Marshall will not return to his post.

The Cardinals are presented with a challenge this season — its youth. Only one of last year’s conference selections, Palmer, will be returning this year. In fact, its seven first-years outweigh its returning upperclassmen total of six.

Only 10 players from the 2024 team were a Cardinal this time last year.

Those seven rookies include infielder Sara Isaacs; catchers Emma Deo and Alyssa Hemingway; pitcher Calli Fitzwater; and outfielders Michelle DeFina, Aislyn Liberty and Leila Toomey.

Four sophomores make their return: infielder/pitcher Megan Pillus, pitcher Morgan Ormerod and catchers Meghan Cox and Noll.

Two juniors, Palmer and infielder Makayla Manalo, are consistent from last year’s team. The Cardinals also welcome two junior transfer pitchers, Carly Gemmett from Hudson Valley Community College and Sarah Milyko from Western Connecticut State University.

Three seniors offer their experience: infielder Kaitlin Smith and outfielders Dolly Garguilo and Dimitra Mouhteros.

Though a small class, this year’s seniors will have a big role in leading the underclassmen in the right direction.

“I am pleasantly surprised with how well they have stepped up to the plate,” Van Dorn said. “They’ve become very good leaders. They do a lot of behind the scenes leadership where I necessarily don’t have to do those things anymore.”

Returning for a fifth year on the diamond will be infielder/pitcher Julia Golino, who Van Dorn has put a lot of trust in.

Deciding to return came down to one thing for Golino: playing.

“I don’t think I was ready to give it up yet,” Golino said. “I still love my team.”

Golino is the last player remaining from her class, which joined the team the same year as Van Dorn’s promotion. Golino is expected to be a major leader while also being a top producer.

“She is our starting pitcher. She’s our go to. She’s our three hitter. She is probably going to be in every inning of every game,” Van Dorn said. “She is definitely an amazing role model.”

Golino has already rubbed off on the newcomers.

“We call her grandma. She’s kind of like everyone’s mom,” Noll said.

The first-years are expected to have roles this season, and they got a good first taste of action last week playing in THE Spring Games. The rookies combined for 68 of the team’s 223 at bats.

“The girls are really acclimating and meshing in really well,” Golino said.

Isaacs recorded six hits, four RBIs and two runs in her 25 trips to the plate. Hemingway, in just eight at bats, has four hits, a run and an RBI. Deo leads first-years in putouts with 15.

“It’s not easy. You’re going from high school to a whole different atmosphere,” Noll said. “They’re taking their roles seriously and doing a good job.”

Plattsburgh completed a slate of eight games in Clearwater, Florida, last week, returning home 2-6 overall.

The Cardinals defeated Washington and Jefferson College 4-1 on March 17 and Southern Virginia University 10-9 on March 19. 

Plattsburgh lost to Framingham State 5-6 on March 17; No. 22 Millikin 0-3 on March 18; Hamilton 4-5 in extra innings March 18; Old Westbury 2-4 on March 19; Wisconsin Eau-Claire 3-4 on March 21 and Ramapo 5-11 on March 21.

Games against No. 14 Tufts and Western New England on March 22 were canceled due to inclement weather.

Noll earned SUNYAC Player of the Week on March 25, marking the team’s first selection since 2021. Noll recorded 14 hits, five RBIs and eight runs

The week may not have turned out a positive record, but the team is finding positive takeaways from the trip. The Cardinals stayed in a single house in lieu of a hotel, meaning the team was around each other at all times.

“You’re with your teammates for nine days straight. You’re doing everything together,” Noll said. “It makes you have a closer relationship on and off the field.”

The team played significant out-of-conference competition, facing ranked talent for the first time this season. With overall record not being a major contributing factor in the playoff picture, this week was a chance to play everyone and try things out.

“Our strength of schedule really brought out the best in them. We played a lot of strong competition and it enlightened them a little bit with how good they truly are,” Van Dorn said. “This week was definitely eye-opening. We are definitely better than we thought.

Plattsburgh plans to play six two-game out-of-conference doubleheaders this season: against Skidmore in Saratoga, New York, on March 30; Canton in Plattsburgh’s home opener April 2; St. Lawrence in Canton, New York, on April 9; VSU-Castleton, Vermont, on April 17; Saint Michael’s at home April 24 and Clarkson at home April 30.

The Cardinals will play a doubleheader against each SUNYAC team this season. This season will mark the final regular season series against Geneseo and Brockport, as both will depart for the Empire 8 after this academic year. Geneseo has won four of the last five SUNYAC Championships, including a current streak of three.

Canton and Morrisville will join the SUNYAC next season.

Whether this is its season to win it all or not, the program is headed in the right direction. Van Dorn and the Cardinals have set a precedent for playoffs and going toe-to-toe with the best. High standards are the result of high success.

“We want to be a team that gets to the top of the conference,” Van Dorn said. “We’ve done a lot of work over the last few years on building that and now we want that to be a recurring thing every single year.”

At the end of the day, it comes down to results on the diamond. When the players have bought into a coach, they play to their ceilings.

“Plattsburgh has always come from an underdog perspective. Being the team to look out for is really cool,” Golino said. “I’m really excited to compete with this new group of girls.”


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