The Plattsburgh State volleyball team kicked off its 2018 campaign Friday at Memorial Hall, hosting this year’s Best Western Plus-Ground Round Cardinal Classic.
The season started with the return of a familiar face. Former assistant coach Matt Lein returned to the Cardinals to take on the head role. He served as assistant coach from 2014-2016 and coached the Siena club volleyball team in 2017 before returning to the North Country.
“This is where I really love to be,” Lein said. “I love the atmosphere. It’s a great nurturing environment to be in.”
Lein’s players were just as excited to have him back.
“He coached my club team a few years ago,” said sophomore setter Allyssa Rock. “He has a great personality. He’s big on personal goals and wants to help us reach them.”
“He brings a lot of positivity and a lot of energy into the locker room, I’m super excited to work with him,” said middle blocker Michelle Simmons.
Last season, PSUC went 0-9 in SUNYAC play and 6-21 overall, putting them in dead last amongst SUNYs.
Lein has already begun making changes this season.
“We’ve been working really hard this preseason to implement some of my new ideas,” Lein said. “Changing the structure of the practices has helped, I feel like we’re going to surprise some people.”
“We definitely want that record to be flipped. All of us are confident on making it far in the SUNYACs,” Simmons said.
Allyssa Rock says that teamwork is key.
“Working together is big,” Rock said. “Things got messy last season. We almost forgot why we were here.”
This season the Cards have 13 players, none of whom are seniors. Two of the losses this season for PSUC are the graduate Lexi Pascal, as well as Hunter Grotjohn.
“You can expect big things from our sophomores and some of our incoming freshmen, and the juniors have done a great job stepping up,” Lein said.
The Cards came out strong against Canton, winning the first set, but came up just short in a five-set loss (27-29, 25-21, 26-24, 22-25, 15-10). Simmons gathered 13 kills and Lauren DeVoe collected 14 digs and 35 assists in her debut in a Plattsburgh uniform.
PSUC quickly bounced back, defeating Mount Saint Mary in three straight sets (25-18, 25-20, 25-17) Friday for Lein’s first career victory as head coach. DeVoe had six kills, five aces and two blocks to help lead the Cards to victory.
The second day of the Cardinal Classic was a better day for Plattsburgh. Brianna Coon, Simmons and Ann Beauchamp combined for 30 kills to help lead PSUC to another 3-0 sweep against Utica (25-18, 25-13, 25-22).
The last game of the tournament for the Cards ended in a 3-1 win against the Sage Colleges (25-19, 25-23, 26-28, 26-24). PSUC won eight of its last nine sets to close out the tournament.
DeVoe was named to the all-tournament team, and Canton were named tournament champions, as the only team to finish with a perfect 4-0 record. Plymouth State and Plattsburgh tied for second with records of 3-1.
This weekend, PSUC heads down to Hoboken, New Jersey for the Ducks Classic, hosted by the Stevens Institute of Technology. The Cards start the tournament Friday against Kean, whom the Cards lost to in four sets last season. Later in the night, they play Swarthmore College, who is off to a 4-0 start after their first tournament of the semester.
The next day, the Cards open up against Stevens. Stevens lost all three games against nationally ranked teams in their past tournament. PSUC closes out the tournament playing against the College of Mount Saint Vincent, who has not played a game yet.
Last year the Cards were 2-2 to open up play, now they are 3-1, an early sign of improvement for a team with a new head coach.
Email Jack Flood at email@example.com