By Collin Bolebruch
The Plattsburgh Cardinals lacrosse teams started conference play last weekend, after starting the season playing various opponents from different conferences. Conference game results are the primary factor in determining playoff teams.
Founded in 2019, the Cardinals women’s lacrosse team has neither the longevity of Plattsburgh’s baseball or men’s basketball programs, nor the trophies of its hockey teams. Women’s lacrosse is paving its way and making its own history in 2023.
Lindsay Guzzetta wrote herself into the team’s record books against Union College two weeks ago, setting career marks in both goals, with 59, and draw controls, with 89. Guzzetta’s first year with the team was in 2020, when the season was canceled after four games due to COVID-19. Since the COVID-related turbulence of her first few seasons, the senior earned the title of captain. In her final year, she anticipates forgoing her extra year of eligibility.
Head Coach Kelly Wall has essentially been with the team since its inception, missing only 2021 and ascending to her current role in 2022. Wall and former Head Coach Julie Decker were at the helm of the program’s first two seasons, establishing the team on campus.
Wall’s tenure has proved her integral to the team’s history, but she cemented her legacy in Plattsburgh’s first conference game this season. The Cardinals (4-3, SUNYAC 1-1) celebrated its Senior Day and hosted the Buffalo State Bengals (3-4, SUNYAC 0-2) March 25, winning 13-9. The win ascended Wall as the lone honoree of the team’s all-time win record by a head coach with nine.
“It means a lot. It helps with recruiting, it helps with the morale of the team. I can’t take all the credit. The girls have done it,” Wall said. “They worked hard today and that’s how we got here.”
Against the Bengals, senior Kate Kennedy led the team with a career-high four goals on eight shots. She was followed by Cynthia Barnosky with three and Guzzetta, senior Emma McLaughlin and Caitlin Nash with two. Guzzetta said this win builds “a ton” of confidence for the rest of the SUNYAC games.
McLaughlin tallied two assists and led the team in ground balls with six. Johanna Malone continues to be the team’s only goalie, saving five shots for a 0.357 save percentage. Malone hopped in on the action, setting the single-season win record for a goalie with four.
The Cardinals used the conference play-opening home game as an opportunity to honor its seniors — just the program’s second group of four-year players. The 2023 class includes Guzzetta, Kennedy, McLaughlin, Caroline Noia, Bri Prosser and Nikki Scioscia. Noia said leaving after the year will be “sad,” as this year’s seniors have been “building” the team up from the ground. Guzzetta said she “teared up” in the locker room.
“Being a young program, I’ve been with the other seniors for the past four years and, obviously, I’ve been looking forward to this day for our whole college career,” McLaughlin said. “It was really nice just celebrating together, how long we’ve been a part of this program.”
Kennedy said the festivities helped to fuel her performance.
“It means a lot to me. I have a lot of lack of confidence when it comes to driving and going to the goal, so it really helped my confidence today,” Kennedy said.
Despite joining the team this year, Prosser already feels like she’s been taken in by her teammates.
“In the short amount of time, I’ve definitely had so much support,” Prosser said. “It was really emotional.”
The seniors took the field with loved ones before the game, receiving flowers and a poster with their name and number to be displayed during the match. The team’s fourth-ever Senior Day is an essential part of creating tradition. Wall is excited to be a key member of women’s lacrosse’s foundational seasons.
Guzzetta received a surprise virtual message at the ceremony from her two brothers, supporting her in her last year. One is stationed overseas as a field artillery captain and the other is a military helicopter mechanic based in Alaska. Guzzetta was “surprised” and “appreciated” the supportive messages.
The already special win was sweetened by the Cardinals and Bengals’ history. The Cards’ victory marks the first time it’s won the matchup. Last season, Buffalo State bested Plattsburgh in its own Senior Day, so this year, the Cards were determined to get even.
“Definitely, revenge is served. We’ve just always battled with them. They’re a pretty aggressive team,” McLaughlin said. “Winning that day definitely set the record straight that we’re the better team.”
The Cards struck first, putting itself in a position to succeed. In three out of its four wins this season, Plattsburgh was never behind in score. Guzzetta, assisted by McLaughlin, put the ball in the net just past the game’s two minute mark.
The Bengals evened the field a minute and a half later, and the Cardinals took it personally. Plattsburgh shut out Buffalo St. for the rest of the first quarter and seniors Kennedy and McLaughlin took the lead back, making the score 4-1 before the first buzzer.
“I think our defense was really well-communicated. I always feel like defense is one of the biggest parts on our team,” Scioscia said. “[The offense was] really put together and they were totally in-sync.”
A Kennedy goal six minutes into the second quarter increased the lead to five and the Cardinals didn’t let up, as Plattsburgh held a lead of two or more points for the rest of the game. Barnosky buried the game-winning 10th goal in the third quarter. The Cards held a six-goal lead with 11:29 left in the fourth, its largest of the day.
Early in the season, the assertive win may be one of the most important of the year. Sending a message to the SUNYAC that the team is competitive and setting the tone for the rest of the season is crucial to achieving the team’s ultimate goal of making the playoffs.
“It’s huge. We didn’t play amazing last year against them, so to come out and control the game from the beginning is a huge step in the right direction for us,” Wall said.
Plattsburgh then went on the road March 29 to play the New Paltz Hawks (5-3, SUNYAC 1-1), losing 10-11. The Cardinals led with nine and a half minutes left in the game, but two late Hawks scores turned the tides. Plattsburgh returns home April 1 to play the Geneseo Knights (4-2, SUNYAC 2-0) in its Morgan’s Message dedication game.
“I think for the rest of the conference games, we’re a pretty underestimated team due to the newness of our program,” McLaughlin said. “I think we have a lot to show to other teams and they’re not going to expect it coming from us.”
The men’s team (2-6, SUNYAC 0-1) did not see the same result as the women in its first conference game. The Cardinals traveled to New Paltz to play the Hawks (5-2, SUNYAC 1-0), losing 9-18. The loss marks the team’s sixth straight, but it’s not for a lack of effort.
Plattsburgh led New Paltz in ground balls, with 32 to the Hawks’ 31, and shots, with 50 to the Hawks’ 37. The numbers suggest an impressive but unlucky game for the Cardinals.
Attacker John Eiseman led the team with three goals and an assist for a total of four points. Behind him, eight different Cardinals recorded a single point. Midfielder Jimbo Farrelly notched eight ground balls and defender Kyle Ruland had two caused turnovers.
Dan Clements, the team’s primary goalie, started the game and had 14 goals allowed and six saves before being pulled before the fourth quarter. In fifteen minutes of action, Jack Mulcahy had four goals allowed and two saves.
Plattsburgh held its own through the first half, keeping the game tight. The Cardinals pulled within one point twice in the first and never trailed by more than four points. Strong third and fourth quarters by the Hawks sealed the game.
The Cards stay on the road for its April 1 game against the Oswego Lakers (7-2, SUNYAC 2-0). Historically, Plattsburgh has Oswego’s number, not losing to the Lakers during the 2010s. The road conference matchup will be another chance for the first SUNYAC win of the Darry Thornton era.