PLATTSBURGH — In Plattsburgh State's two losses this season, a slow start has put the Cardinal lacrosse team in a hole.The Cardinals can ill afford a slow start today.Plattsburgh State opens its State University of New York Athletic Conference schedule with a 1 p.m. contest against defending Division III national champion Cortland at 1 p.m. at the Plattsburgh State Lacrosse Complex."Cortland has set the standard in conference history," said Plattsburgh State head coach P.J. Kavanagh. "They have been the team to beat over the last 20-25 years and very few conference teams have beaten them."They are a well-respected program throughout the conference and teams are still trying to catch up to them."They play a strong non-league schedule — one that is a little stronger than we play. But, we still have seven wins going into the game."The Cardinals are 7-2 overall and their only blemishes thus far have been two non-conference home losses — 19-6 to Clarkson and 16-5 to St. Lawrence University.In both games, Plattsburgh State fell behind early and was never able to mount enough of a comeback."It was more us than them when we played Clarkson," Kavanagh said. "Our shooting was a little off in the first quarter. The ground balls were pretty even, the faceoffs pretty even and shots pretty even. But, we didn't bury our shots early on."Against St. Lawrence, they got off to a much faster start than we did in shots. We didn't get the opportunities early on. They put us under a lot of pressure."We need to stay with Cortland at the start. If we are able to get possession early and stick a few early on, we can give them a little gut check."Kavanagh was pleased, however, with his team's play in the second and third quarters against nationally-ranked St. Lawrence."In the second and third quarters, they outscored us by a 5-4 score," he said."That gave us some confidence and showed what we are capable of doing against the 13th-ranked team in the country."Cortland is currently 4-4 overall and coming off a 15-4 victory over Ithaca in its last contest."They are good across the board," Kavanagh said. "Especially at attack and midfield. Some would say they have the best long stick midfielder in the league."I don't know how their defense will match up with our offense. We have some dynamic players who we hope can give them some trouble."Three of the Red Dragons' losses have been by one goal and one, a setback at St. Lawrence, by two goals.Last season, the Cardinals closed out their season with a 21-3 setback to the Red Dragons. This year, Plattsburgh State gets Cortland in its first SUNYAC encounter."This is a tremendous opportunity to open up against a team like Cortland," Kavanagh said. "I wouldn't have it any other way."If I did, and would rather have us open up against a team traditionally not as strong, I would be selling ourselves short."Plattsburgh State closed out the non-conference portion of its schedule with Monday's 25-5 road victory over Cazenovia. The Cardinals have won two games in a row, including an earlier 21-4 decision over Morrisville State.Kavanagh knows his team needs to step up today against the Red Dragons."Everyone is pretty healthy," he said. "The guys are loose and confident. We're really looking forward to the game We'd like to come out early and get the first shot in the mouth."The Cardinals are being led in scoring by Kyle Norchi (26-13-39), Frank Sangiovanni (30-6-36) and Luke Weidlein (15-12-27). Plattsburgh State has seven players with 10 points or more.Adrian Marino, Bryan Copius and Pete Quinn have all scored eight goals and Jimmy Tenny seven for the Cardinals.Billy Hughes has a 4-1 record in net, with 51 saves, and Brian Csorny is 3-1, with 72 saves, in goal for the Cardinals.Plattsburgh State plays six conference games, with its other home contests being against Potsdam on April 18 and Geneseo on April 28.