Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Overhauled Cardinals hungry for SUNYACs

First-year guard/forward Felicia Caarls

By Jayson Gaston

The Plattsburgh Cardinals women’s basketball season is upon us and the new-look team is looking for improvement from their previous season. The Cardinals are ushering in a young and motivated squad as it prepares for its season opener on the road against the Clarkson Golden Knights Wednesday, Nov 8. 

In the 2022-23 season, the Cardinals missed the playoffs with an overall record of 8-17, 4-14. Its leading scorers from last season, guards Kourtney McCarthy and Izzy Wilbur, are no longer on the team this  year. 

The team features six returning upperclassmen: seniors feature center Bri Brousseau, graduate student guard Maya Smith, junior guard/forward Payton Couture, and sophomores guard/forward Kathy Peterson-Ross, center Imani Walcott and guard/forward Jaden Wilson. 

Sophomore guard/forward Jaden Wilson

The Cardinals first-years include guard/forward Rosie Sculco, guard Julia Greek, guard Selma Deisz, guard Ady Darnold, forward/guard Felicia Caarls, center Ella Franklin and guard Lauren LaFountain. 

With such a young squad going into this season, Head Coach Ben Sarraf is looking to the upperclassmen to show leadership for the Cardinals this year. 

“We returned six players this year, all who played pretty significant roles I’d say,” Sarraf said. “All of those players played 10 minutes per game to upward of 30, so that’s definitely going to help us. I would say having more experience on the floor should help a fair amount.”

Wilson, who served a strong role for the Cardinals off the bench her first year, is prepared to contribute the leadership her coach is talking about.

“Personally, for me, I spent last year in the shoes as a freshman so I feel I can bring valuable experience along with the other upperclassmen,” Wilson said. “I’m a very verbal person. I would say I’m a strong communicator for the team and bringing that lively personality to the team just sparks the energy and keeps a positive tone.”

Smith led the team in assists last year with 3.3 per game, while Wolcott held down the paint, leading the team in both rebounds and blocks with 6.5 and 1.3 per game respectively. 

The recruitment process for the Cardinals was successful this offseason as the coaching staff not only looked for players who would fill holes from last year, but also players who have the correct character for the program.

“I’m pretty specific on what the expectations are to be in the program and to be in the program for four years,” Sarraf said. “Obviously, aside from basketball talent, what I mention to the players is that you should legitimately be coming here to get an education. If that’s not one of your top priorities, I don’t know what you’re doing” 

The Cardinals 2023-24 squad features two international recruits, Deisz from Norway and Caarls from Sweden. These two have had to adjust to the differences between the European and American games, but also bring some of the international play styles to the team. 

“Hopefully, I can contribute new energy. We have a different play style in Europe so hopefully, I can add some of that,” Caarls said. “At first it was different but now I’d say I’m starting to adjust.”

With a couple of scrimmages against St. Michael’s and Vermont State University-Johnson under the team’s belt, the team now looks to have a “one-day-at-a-time” mentality going into the season.

“We’re at the one-step-at-a-time part of the season. Luckily with the returners, we have what they’ve retained from last season has helped,” Sarraf said. “With the whirlwind of basketball season starting, I really think the expectation for our team should be making the playoffs in the SUNYAC. Taking it day-by-day is how we do that.”

After the Cardinal’s first two games, against the Golden Knights and the St Lawrence Saints, the Cardinals will host the annual Cardinal Classic. They will face the Bates Bobcats and the Castleton Spartans Friday, Nov. 17, and Saturday, Nov. 18, respectively.


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