PLATTSBURGH — Situated in front of a home crowd for the first time in its 2014 campaign, the Plattsburgh State volleyball team found itself on the wrong end of a 3-1 (23-25, 25-23, 25-11, 25-21) decision against Sage in the opening game of the Best Western-Ground Round Cardinal Classic in Memorial Hall on Friday night.

After coming out firing on all cylinders in the first set, the Cardinals (2-4) fell victim to error-plagued second and third frames and never could fully recover. The Gators (5-4) saw their match progress in the opposite direction, getting stronger with each passing set to secure the triumph.

Rolling up a 3-0 advantage early in the first frame proved to be extremely important for the Cardinals. The freshman tandem of Noelle Miller and Miranda Sheffer set the tone early by going up for a block for the first Plattsburgh State point of the evening before an attack error by the Gators wrapped up the mini spurt.

Sage was able to close the gap and eventually take its first lead of the night when an attack error by Maggie Schrantz made matters 9-8 in favor of the visitors. Terminations later in the frame by Noelle Miller, Melissa Wickers and Schrantz, though, pushed the Plattsburgh State lead back to 15-12.

Near the end of the set, six separate Plattsburgh State miscues led to a 23-20 Sage lead, but Schrantz led the Cardinals on a 5-0 run to end the set. The senior out of Buffalo hammered down a three consecutive kills to close the frame and put the Cardinals up 1-0.

It looked as though the Cardinals had every intention to put Sage in a two-set hole as Noelle Miller bookended a 7-2 opening surge by the home squad with a kill and an ace from the service line. The Gators had different plans, however, as they reeled off an 11-3 offensive spree to take a 13-10 lead.

Finally putting an end to their lengthy drought of offense, Plattsburgh State regained the lead on a 5-0 run which featured a rare kill from senior setter Meghan Clifford. The Cardinals’ edge turned out to be short lived, as Rachel Martin had two kills and a block assist on the final three Gator points of the set to knot the match at one.

After hitting .216 in the opening frame, the Cardinals saw their attack numbers plummet in the second as the squad posted a figure of -.026.

Things didn’t get much better for the home team in the third frame as Sage kept its momentum churning to take an 11-3 lead in the early stages of the set. The Gators saw their sizable advantage increase to as many as 14 points (21-7) in the one-sided frame.

With a win in the fourth set needed to force a decisive fifth game, the Cardinals certainly looked as though they were up to the challenge early on. An 8-2 scoring blitz to begin the final set of the game featured three kills from Noelle Miller and another pair off the hand of Schrantz.

The Cardinals’ edge grew to 11-5 before the Gators awoke from their offensive slumber and constructed a 12-3 run around the twin pillars of Martin and Michayla Berard. The duo combined to produce six kills and a block during that span.

Plattsburgh State managed to obtain the lead one more after a 5-1 run made matters 19-18, but the Gators’ Helen Putriment took over down the stretch to give the visiting squad the win. The senior put down three kills during the 8-2 run which wrapped up the match.

Sage showed off its play at the net, amassing 15 blocks compared to just two by the Cardinals. Plattsburgh State hit .080 for the match while the Gators finished with a figure of .177.

Schrantz finished with a 12-kill, 12-dig double-double to lead the way for Plattsburgh State. Noelle Miller collected 11 kills on a team-best .231 hitting percentage while Emily Miller added another 10 terminations for the Cardinals. Clifford recorded 37 assists while Jackie Mariotti added a match-high 25 digs.

Putriment enjoyed a 12-kill, 22-dig double-double for the Gators while Martin added 12 kills of her own to go along with a pair of solo blocks and six block assists.

The Cardinals will try to shake off their four-set loss on Saturday when they wrap up their three-game set in the Best Western-Ground Round Cardinal Classic. Plattsburgh State faces Elms College at 11 a.m. before putting the finishing touches on their two-match day with a 1:30 p.m. meeting against Bridgewater State. 

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