By Liam Sample
It was a streaky 2021-2022 season for the Plattsburgh women’s basketball team, who finished 7-18. The team enters the new season with a new goal, creating relationships on and off the court.
“Last year I think our biggest struggle was team chemistry. This year, the seniors all wanted to come together and just try and make more of a team environment,” senior Hannah Ruberto said. “That’s been really our main focus and just creating good relationships between our teammates and emphasizing what a team is off the court as much as what a team is on court.”
Head Coach Ben Sarraf, who enters his second season at the helm after spending eight seasons as the assistant coach, said it is clear this team has done work on its own.
“The things that really go unnoticed that really make a team a team, they’ve done a good job making sure that there’s been a lot of opportunities for the team to get to know each other and spend time together,” Sarraf said.
Sarraf said the message is simple for the season, take it one day at a time and “keep it positive.” He had a busy offseason, bringing in five first-years, sophomore Izzy Wilbur, who is new to the team and sophomore Bri Brousseau, who transferred from Canton.
The team’s forward core consists of six players, senior Kara Oatman, first-year Imani Walcott, junior Caitlin Kolesar, senior Hannah Ruberto, senior Misa Dowdell and Brousseau.
Ruberto had the most total points among returning forwards with 102 last year. Dowdell finished with 15 blocks last season, second highest on the team.
In terms of guards, the team is running with nine this season, senior Mya Smith, first-year Kortney McCarthy, first-year Silvette Vargas, first-year Jaden Wilson, junior Brinley Inglee, sophomore Koree Stillwell, first-year Kathy Peterson-Ross, sophomore Payton Couture and Wilbur.
Couture scored the most total points on the team last year with 271, averaging 10.8 per game and led the team with an average of 6.5 rebounds per game. Smith started every game last season and averaged 9.2 points.
Couture said a strength of this team is how it is closer than last season and that the players have built good chemistry. She said she expects players to give it their all this season.
“If you’re out there for 20 minutes, give it your hardest 20 minutes. If you’re only out there for five, give it the hardest five you can,” Couture said. “Leave everything on the court.”
Sarraf said it is extremely important this season to be connected with his players. He added that he learned a lot of lessons in his first year, saying “what didn’t I learn last year?,” One of those lessons he said is how important the relationship with his leaders is.
Sarraf emphasized that his seniors have stepped up not only to help him, but to help in building chemistry for the team. He said they have run study halls and made sure the players are on top of their work, along with helping out when recruits visit campus. He also said that on the court, the team is a bit taller, deeper and more experienced.
Plattsburgh started off its season with a 61-59 win over the Clarkson Golden Knights at Memorial Hall, fueled by 16 points by Brousseau and 12 by both Smith and Couture.
The team next will host the Cardinal Classic, where the team will play SUNY Cobleskill, and Wesleyan University, with SUNY Potsdam also attending. Four total games will be played over two games at Memorial Hall. Attendance is free for the games, which start today at 5 p.m. and tomorrow at 1 p.m.