Tuesday, April 16, 2024

Cards reflect on 2023-24 season

The 2023-24 Plattsburgh Cardinals in one of its last team huddles on senior night Saturday Feb. 17.

 

By Justin Rushia

Big games, highlight plays and steps in the right direction are all part of what made this Plattsburgh women’s basketball season stand out.  

The Cardinals improved its performance in the 2023-24 season by securing 10 wins against 14 losses compared to its previous season’s record of 8-17, but this team’s progress cannot be fully captured by its record alone.

“We’re certainly heading in the right direction. From a talent standpoint, from a culture standpoint and from a retention standpoint,” Head Coach Ben Sarraf said. 

Going into the 23-24 season, Sarraf’s overarching goal was simple: compete at a higher level than last year. Along with having an improved record, Plattsburgh saw significant improvements from some of its promising young players, including junior Payton Couture and sophomore Imani Walcott. Walcott led the team in scoring and rebounding. 

Couture stepped up her game immensely this season, averaging 13 points and 6.7 rebounds per game, compared to last season’s 8.7 points and 6.1 rebounds. As one of the team’s oldest players, Couture was in a unique situation to become a leader on and off the court for her team. 

“I’ve been teaching myself to improve every year so I can score more, get more rebounds and be a bigger role model and leader on the team,” Couture said.

Couture was named SUNYAC athlete of the week twice this season. 

Mya Smith was also a leader for the Cardinals this season. Smith is known for her tenacious defense and her playmaking abilities. She is the only Cardinal leaving the flock after this season. Smith’s experience as a successful student-athlete made her a natural leader for Plattsburgh. Her teammates and coaches will miss her contributions on and off the court.

“What Mya brings to the table is steady leadership and leading by example,” Assistant Coach Keith Wasberg said. 

Wasberg applauded all five of Plattsburgh’s returning players for stepping up as leaders. Before the season even started, the returners were already on the same page in terms of expectations for the team. 

New arrivals were a key to the Cardinals’ success this year. Many first-year Cardinals made their mark early on, like first-year point guard Julia Greek. Greek was third on the team in scoring off of the bench and established herself as one of the top shooters in the conference, shooting 36% from three. Other standout first-years include guard Selma Deisz and wing Jaedon Wilson. With so much young talent, Plattsburgh should be in good shape for future seasons.

The Cardinals’ season had many competitive and memorable games. One notable match up was when Plattsburgh went on the road to face a Brockport team who had beaten them 64-70 earlier in the season. Plattsburgh, led by Walcott, defeated Brockport 52-44. Walcott notched herself a triple-double with 21 points, 11 rebounds and an astonishing 11 blocks. This win showed that Plattsburgh can not only go toe-to-toe with playoff teams but beat them.

“It felt like everything was clicking. Everybody was aligned regardless of what their role was,” Sarraf said. “This is how it should feel.”

This season, Plattsburgh swept Buffalo State and Fredonia. The Cardinals also split its series with very competitive Oneonta and Brockport teams.

Ending the season with a win over Oneonta is a great stepping stone going into the next season. The Plattsburgh State Cardinals look to make even more improvements next season and are push for a playoff spot and a SUNYAC championship. 

With almost the whole team returning besides Mya Smith, the Cardinals should have a well-established chemistry and team drive going into next season.

“Regardless of who’s in the conference, with what we hopefully return, I want to be able to make the playoffs the rest of my career here,” Sarraf said. 

 

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