By TIM PULSIFER
---- — PLATTSBURGH — The Plattsburgh State women’s basketball squad tips off a busy early season stretch with a big non-conference matchup against Middlebury College this afternoon at 2 p.m. at Memorial Hall.
The Cardinals, led by a career-best 19-point performance from Dana Nacaro, opened their 2012-13 campaign a little over a week ago with a solid 58-42 win at Sage College.
Plattsburgh will be looking to build on that momentum today against a somewhat unknown commodity from across the lake.
“Since we only see them once a year, it’s kind of difficult to know what to expect,” Cardinals head coach Cheryl Cole said. “They played us very tough and beat us by a basket over there last year, so there is a little extra motivation. To me, though, this game is more about us coming out and defining ourselves, especially on the defensive side of the ball, as to who we want to be as a team this season.
“If we can come out and play with intensity and keep it up, especially on the defensive end for 40 minutes, I think we can set a very positive tone and hopefully build off of that as we move forward with our season. In that sense, I think, this is a very big, very important game for us.”
Getting out of the blocks strong and establishing some early season success, something the Cardinals were unable to accomplish a year ago, is also on the agenda starting with today’s matchup with the Panthers.
“We struggled early last season. Once you start losing some games like that, you start questioning yourself, you lose some of your confidence and it almost becomes a habit, especially when you’re as young as we were last season,” said Cole. “With the pieces we now have in place, though, and with the talent, experience and leadership we have on this team, I think we can avoid that this time around.”
Another key factor to keep an eye on in the early going for Plattsburgh may be the team’s stamina, focus and possibly, most importantly, its ability to play well and win away from home. The Cardinals have four games scheduled over the next week with the next three, after today, taking place away from the friendly confines of Memorial Hall.
“This week is definitely going to be a test for us,” said Cole. “It’s going to test our resilience, endurance, strength and focus, no doubt about it, and it’s never easy to win easy away from home, no matter who you’re playing. I’m not saying it won’t be tough but I really like this group and I think we will be up to the challenge. We just need to do this one game at a time, one possession at a time and take of business. I think, as a team, we’re healthy, excited and ready to go.”
After today’s non-conference contest with Middlebury, Plattsburgh will hit the road to play at St. Lawrence University next Tuesday before opening conference play at Oswego and Cortland next weekend.