Hofstra strives for postseason return


On heels of missing out on postseason play for the time in a decade, Hofstra women’s soccer is kicking into high gear for the 2017 season.

The Pride fell one win short of qualifying for the Colonial Athletic Association tournament despite winning five of their last five matches, Hofstra was playing in peak form by the end of October capturing four of its last five games, but a 0-4 CAA start doomed the Pride in the end.

“The seniors have been fantastic preparing for the new season,” said 12th-year head coach Simon Riddiough, who led the Pride to four NCAA Tournament appearances in 2007, 2010, 2012 and 2015. “They really want to get back to where we have been in the past.”

Hofstra will have to adjust to life this fall without last year’s leading scorer, Jill Mullholland, who tallied 34 points including 13 goals. In Mullholland’s absence, Riddiough is hoping for more of an offensive spark from senior forward Kristin Desmond, who was second on the 2016 team in points with 14.

“She is going to be a key component of our offense,” said Riddiough of Desmond, a former Long Island player of the Year out of Northport High School. “I think she has the ability to score quite a few more goals.”

Junior midfielder Noriana Radwan had a breakout 2016 season with six goals after transferring from Connecticut. Junior defender Madeline Anderson, a Clarke High School product, also proved to be an offensive threat from the backline with two goals and an assist.

“She is fearless,” said Riddiough of Anderson, who was named to the 2017 Preseason All-Colonial Athletic Association Team. “She is coming into her own.”

Twin sisters Katie and Kelly Gerdes stepped up into integral roles last year and will both be counted on to lead the Pride’s defensive effort this fall. Kelly Gerdes started every game last year in the backline after two injury-plagued seasons while Katie started 12 matches at midfield. The Wantagh natives and former MacArthur High School standouts will operate in the defensive zone.

“It is going to be great seeing the two of them back there together,” said Riddiough of the Gerdes sisters.

Red-shirt junior goalie Ashley Wilson returns for her senior season in after splitting duties last year with Friederike Mehring. Senior Jenna Borresen, an East Meadow High School graduate, and Coastal Carolina transfer Sabrina Painter are capable backup options in net.

Riddiough pieced together a challenging non-conference schedule to position Hofstra for a possible at-large NCAA Tournament berth should it not win the CAA title. The Pride opened with four straight road tilts starting at Pittsburgh and Penn State. The non-conference home schedule is highlighted by a Sept. 4 meeting with Yale before hosting Fordham on Sept. 8 and Monmouth on Sept. 10.

“We always like to compete against the best,” Riddiough said. “Hopefully if we can excel in the non-conference schedule it will prepare us for CAA play.”

Hofstra hosts UNC-Wilmington and Drexel in its first two CAA home games on Sept. 24 and 28, respectively. The home league schedule also features rival James Madison on Oct. 8 and Elon for senior day on Oct. 15. The Pride were picked to finish fifth in the CAA preseason poll giving the team extra motivation to push for the program’s first conference crown since 2012.

“It’s our job to prove people wrong,” Riddiough said. “I think this team has the chance to do that.”