By Collin Bolebruch & Liam Sample
It was a bittersweet weekend for the Plattsburgh Cardinals women’s volleyball team.
The Cards (4-9) celebrated the 50-year anniversary of Title IX Sept. 30 and then its senior day Oct. 1. On the court, the team’s struggles continued, winning one set over two games against the Oneonta Red Dragons (6-9) and the New Paltz Hawks (11-2) at Memorial Hall. The losses are the team’s fifth and sixth straight.
Players on the team spoke of the significance of Title IX, which is a federal civil rights law that prevents discrimination based on sex in educational environments. Graduate student Kaitlyn Bjelko said it is important for people to realize what Title IX actually is and, as a women’s athlete, asserted its importance.
According to an Instagram post from the Plattsburgh State Athletics account, Liza Vicencio, the associate head athletic trainer and former head coach of the team, came to perform an honorary coin toss in celebration. Vincencio was hired to her initial role as head coach in 1994.
Plattsburgh began compellingly in its first set against Oneonta, winning four of the first five points. Both teams were winless in conference play going into the match. The teams exchanged points for the remainder of the match. In the middle of the set, senior Jenn Braun tallied a clutch kill that increased the lead and put the Cards up 16-13. From there, Plattsburgh picked up momentum, taking six points out of the next eight points and eventually won the set 25-21.
“It was really good for us to be home and have the environment that we should have,” junior Emma Rivers said. “Conference play is definitely difficult for us, and we’re struggling a little.”
In the second set, the Red Dragons came out firing and created a mounting 22-10 lead. Despite the hole, the Cardinals began to capitalize on its opponents’ mistakes, winning 10 of the next 11 points to cut the deficit to three. The comeback would be cut short, and Oneonta took the set 25-21.
From there, the Red Dragons burned Plattsburgh, taking the next two sets 25-13 and 25-17, respectively. Oneonta registered its first conference win and moved to a 1-3 SUNYAC record. It currently sits among the bottom spots in the SUNYAC standings.
The next day, the team celebrated its seniors in a ceremony prior to the game. The team commemorated two fifth years, Bjelko and Alicia Fisher, along with senior Braun.
“The day was really cute, we got gifts and they decorated the gym,” Braun said. “I think it was celebrated well, after we had a tailgate outside, it was fun.”
Rivers said the environment was “fun” and celebrating the seniors’ importance was great. She added that a lot of families came up to Plattsburgh to celebrate, which added to the weekend.
New Paltz has emerged as one of the strongest teams in the conference and showed that against the Cardinals. In the first set, it allowed Plattsburgh to score only seven points in a statement win. The Hawks did not back off in the second set. Despite back to back kills from Fisher and Braun down the stretch, New Paltz took the set 25-12.
Plattsburgh started to find its footing in the crucial third set in an all-around team effort. The teams traded points early on and leveled the score to 5-5. The Hawks attempted to run away with the game, but first-year Kyleigh Ganz stood in its way and tallied three kills on four Cardinal points to make it 10-13 in favor of New Paltz. Both sides exchanged points, but Plattsburgh fell short to lose the set 20-25. This was the Cardinal’s sixth time being swept this season. New Paltz is now 4-1 in the conference, good for third place.
“We have a really young team and I think we just need to work together,” Bjelko said. “I think we can definitely come back and compete in the SUNYAC for sure.”
Plattsburgh currently stands with a 0-4 SUNYAC record, its worst start since 2019. The egg in the wins column solidly places the Cards in the conference basement. The Cardinals are still without junior Payton Zophy, who suffered an ankle injury two weeks ago. According to Zophy, the injury could keep her sidelined for the remainder of the season, but she’s hoping that isn’t the case.
“I have faith we can [pick it back up], but if everyone’s not in it at the same time, it’s never going to happen,” Braun said. “If we want to be able to win games, we have to be at that level every game.”
Plattsburgh travels west to take on Buffalo State Oct. 7 and Fredonia Oct. 8. Rivers said that if the team works hard in practice this week, it will have a chance of picking up its first conference wins of the season.