Cardinals look to success with newcomer talent

Mar. 15—PLATTSBURGH — Growing pains are notorious for young teams in any sport. The Plattsburgh State softball team is the latest team that will make the best of it.

With seven first year student-athletes, the team has a look of growing and improving as a team, as well as individually.

"This is the first year that I've had mostly first years," Cardinals head coach Sam Van Dorn. "We're young, you know, we're a little inexperienced, but I think that is just going to help us.

"You know, we're able to teach them a lot, they're very eager to learn. So I think that is definitely gonna help us"

Even with the excitement, there will be players adjusting to the speed of the game while also the team finds the right combination to be in the field.

"We lost a lot of our upperclassmen last year," Van Dorn said. "We lost six of our starting lineup.

"So I think it's just about finding the right spot for people then kind of finding their confidence. So I do think there is going to be a little bit of growing pains but you know, rebuilding year, but nothing we're too scared of. You know, we're practicing them hard. They're learning all of the things. It's exciting."

A part of those newcomers is three local student-athletes in Aislyn Liberty Saranac and Alyssa Hemingway and Calli Fitzwater from Plattsburgh.

"I definitely think my assistant from last year helped out a lot with that," Van Dorn said. "He's a local guy.

"So he kind of recruited them, you know, that he knew them from the past. So, you know, kind of just was easy for them to kind of come right in."

Even with the influx of new players, the goals remain the same for Plattsburgh as Van Dorn said they want to get back to the postseason and finish above .500.

If the trend continues, the Cardinals will reach both of their goals. Last season the team finished 22-12 overall and 11-7 in the SUNYAC.

Each year that Van Dorn has been at the head the team has seen an improvement in wins that includes two straight conference tournament appearances.

"I also think a successful season is preparing them beyond just softball," Van Dorn said. "Obviously we want to win, we want to get as far as we can, but I think my philosophy is just getting the most out of them day in and day out and teaching them things about life and also about softball.

"It's to teach them discipline and get the most out of them."

Van Dorn is in her fourth season leading the Cards. A graduate from Cortland found her way to the North Country as her previous coach — Brianna Ferchen — asked her to join her at Plattsburgh in 2019.

Once Ferchen left to become the coach at Potsdam, Van Dorn was tabbed as her successor.

One thing Van Dorn said was the area has been a strong selling point to the recruits she's brought to the area. She joked that once they see the area, it's hard for them to leave.

"I would definitely say people say it's hard to recruit here," Van Dorn said. "I like to recruit a lot down the I-87 (corridor) and Long Island.

"Just getting them to see this place has been helpful."

With the season starting Sunday with THE Spring Games, the Cardinals will play 10 games in six days in Clermont, FL.

They return to New York to face Skidmore College the last week of March, before having their home opener against Canton, April 2.

"We're not as lucky as the people down state that get that warmer weather," Van Dorn said. "So it kind of just depends on the year. You know, this year is a little warmer than it's been in the past, knock on wood. But I definitely do think it helps traveling down south at the beginning of the season and then coming back up to play some more non conference home games."

And if things work out right, with the new faces mixing in with the returning players, anything is possible for Plattsburgh.

It all starts Sunday at 9 a.m.