A historic game is scheduled for Wednesday afternoon, when the Plattsburgh State women’s lacrosse team takes to the field as the first addition the Athletic Department’s lineup in nearly 17 years.
The Cardinals are slated to host their inaugural game, against Norwich University, at 4 p.m. at the Field House Soccer/Lacrosse Complex, becoming the school’s first startup team since a brand new women’s hockey program and a reintroduced baseball team began play in 2001 and 2002, respectively.
Recruiting for a team with no history was a unique challenge for head coach Julia Decker. In the end, Decker said her team is a balance of freshmen who were recruited for the team and other girls who were already at Plattsburgh and either hadn’t played competitive lacrosse in years or were picking up the sport for the first time.
The girls with no competitive lacrosse experience include a pair of Plattsburgh natives,despite there being no high school girls lacrosse in this area of the state. Decker said this wasn’t a concern.
“The local girls are natural athletes,” Decker said. “They played hockey growing up and were both three-sport athletes. They picked up the stick skills pretty quickly. It’s just a matter of learning the ins-and-outs of the game of lacrosse — the little gamesmanship kind of things.”
One of those local players is Kara Barber, a senior who will play at defense and was voted one of four team captains.
The other captains are senior Mia Tallerico, junior Leah Herman and freshman Allie Vangas.
“Our four captains are our leaders,” Decker said. “They are definitely representative of the team as a whole. They are doing a great job of driving the team and setting the standard.”
Tallerico originally came to PSUC as a soccer player, but was only on the roster for two years. Having played lacrosse in high school, she took the opportunity to return to the sport.
“It definitely feels different,” Tallerico said. “The rules have changed since high school.”
Decker said that recent rule changes in women’s lacrosse, such as adding a shot clock and allowing players to move freely during stoppages, have made the game faster, made it more “fan-friendly” and, ultimately, made it more similar to men’s lacrosse.
“It’s a different game, based on the rules, but all the fundamentals are the same,” Decker said.
Vangas, a 100-goal-scoring attacking midfielder at Cornwall Central High School and four-year club player, figures to be a key figure on offense for the Cards. Vangas said she was excited to see how the tough competition of NCAA lacrosse will force her to improve herself physically.
After going through “fall ball” and preseason practices, Vangas said she is confident with the way the offense is shaping up, with the one area she hoped to improve being handling pressure situations.
“I think we’re going to look really good,” Vangas said. “I think we’re going to be challenged defensively. Sometimes, we tend to panic. I think we have to work on keeping calming and controlling the ball, and we’ll be fine.”
This is not the first time Vangas has helped start up a team. In fourth grade, she was part of her area’s first girls’ lacrosse youth team, and her freshman year of high school was the second year of the school’s varsity program. Vangas also joined her club team, the Dutchess Monarchs, in its first year.
“I like being a part of history,” Vangas said.
With Vangas the likely leader on offense, and both Reece and Claire Wiley — who are not related — having a key presence in the midfield, Decker pointed to freshman Megan Slovensky as the heart of PSUC’s defense.
“[Slovensky is] just an animal when it comes to defense,” Decker said. “She gets her stick on every ball and knocks passes down.”
Behind Slovensky and the rest of the defense, freshman Alexa Cassidy will be in goal for the Cards.
One potential weakness is that the PSUC roster only has Cassidy at the goalkeeper position. Another goalie had practiced with the Cards’ club team last year, but chose not to continue with the varsity team.
“Ideally, we would love to have two for practice purposes and to have a backup just in case, god forbid, anything happens,” Decker said. “Next year, we’ll definitely have two.”
Decker said she was happy with how the team has developed in the lead-up to the first game, and it has boosted her expectations for the season.
“Since the school year started, our team goals have just been to come together as a team and create our team culture,” Decker said. “Since then, with the progress we’ve seen as a whole, I think we can be competitive this year. I think we can win some games.”
That phrase — “win some games” — was repeated word-for-word by Decker’s captains. PSUC recognizes that it is the newest team in a conference that has been won by SUNY Cortland in 20 consecutive years, and they will need to build the program over time if they want to compete with the Red Dragons
Decker noted that the Cards were picked last in the SUNYAC preseason poll, and she has her eye on the next three teams: SUNY Fredonia, SUNY Potsdam and SUNY New Paltz
“We’re just trying to climb the ladder,” Decker said. “We ultimately want to be competitive and get to that championship game, but we need to through some teams first.”
That process of building the program toward bigger goals starts this year, and Decker is keen to make sure PSUC’s first season is a good starting point.
“We want to be competitive,” Decker said. “We don’t want to sit back and get rolled over. We want to step on the field and go head-to-head with these teams, and hopefully come out on top.”