The young Plattsburgh State women’s basketball team of the 2017-18 season returns, a year older, with experience head coach Cheryl Cole hopes will propel the Cardinals to a successful season.
PSUC fell short of a playoff berth last season, finishing with a 6-12 SUNYAC record, good for eighth in the conference. The team lost five conference games within a six-point margain last year. The close losses, Cole said, was the result of a young team.
The Cards entered last season with eight freshman and only two juniors. The inexperienced team lacked an identity as well as leadership capable of keeping at-odds personalities in check, according to several team members.
PSUC’s coaching staff and leadership group hopes to correct that this year by making it clear early on how the team will operate.
“We made it known that we have to change our culture,” junior forward Frannie Merkel said. “You have to come in with a good attitude, and if you don’t want to be here, don’t be here. That was made very clear.”
Merkel, alongside the rest of the team’s leadership group, began building the team’s chemistry the first day of classes by playing pick-up games as a team Monday through Friday, 6 to 7 a.m.
The Cards added three freshmen to their roster. Kayla Doody, Ly’rell Walker and Kelly Degnan were recruited to contribute right away, Cole said, so providing opportunities for them to gel with the veterans and adjust to the speed and physicality of college basketball was a focus for PSUC.
The team also lost a few players from last season, including guard Anna Thompson, who led the team in assists per game.
The Cards’ first opportunity to show their growth will be in front of a home crowd against Norwich University Saturday at 1 p.m.
Merkel is eyeing Saturday as her first chance to set an example for the rest of her team by playing, she hopes, with composure and constant communication with her teammates.
The team’s home-opener is also an opportunity for second-year returning players to show their personal growth.
Sophomore forward Jordan Kastanis didn’t receive a ton of playing time last year, only playing 11.6 minutes per game, but hopes to change that by proving to the coaching staff that she deserves more.
“For me, the big thing is earning more playing time,” she said. “At practice, I’m trying to stay positive, stay energetic, cheer people on. It’s the little things that help.”
In the two scrimmages PSUC played, the coaching staff focused on getting the team accustomed to a fast-paced, transitional offense. The team’s performance was promising, Cole said, but lingering defensive issues from last year remained.
In the week preceding Saturday’s home-opener, Cole spent practices addressing those defensive issues, but knows there’s still a long way to go before the team is a finished product.
“Are we going to be a fine-tuned group on Saturday? Heck no. It’s a process,” Cole said.
The Cards start the season with three games at home before hitting the road. They don’t want to waste the opportunity to start a new season on a good note.
“It’s exciting to have your friends and family at home supporting you,” Cole said. “Hopefully, some pride in taking care of home court kicks in.”
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