Hofstra’s women’s soccer team enters the 2018 season with a target on its back after a dominating Colonial Athletic Association campaign last year culminated in a conference crown.
Hofstra is armed with a strong corps of returners off a 15-4-2 season that saw the Pride claim the program’s first CAA title since 2012 and reach the NCAA Tournament for a second time in three years. The Pride received all nine possible first-place votes to repeat as conference champions. A year ago, Hofstra was picked fifth in the preseason poll and proved the prediction wrong with a 9-0 CAA mark that allowed the Pride to host the CAA Championships and raise the trophy in front of the home fans.
“They are thirsty and hungry for more,” said 13th-year head coach Simon Riddiough. “We would love to repeat and it is always a goal to keep winning championships, but we have to start by making the CAA playoffs.”
Senior defender Madeline Anderson was named CAA Preseason Co-Player of the Year after anchoring a defense in 2017 that posted 11 shutouts. The Clarke High School product also proved to be an offensive threat last season with two goals produced two goals during her junior campaign.
“She has an internal drive to succeed,” said Riddiough of Anderson, who was the 2017 CAA Defensive Player of the Year. “She is a dream to work with.”
Redshirt senior defender Kelly Gerdes adds veteran leadership to the backline with Anderson. The Wantagh native and former standout at MacArthur High School garnered All-CAA Second Team accolades last year while playing alongside her twin sister Katie.
“She is probably our second most important player outside of Maddie,” Riddiough said of Gerdes. “She is a tremendous leader.”
Anderson and Gerdes anchored a strong backline last year in front of starting goalies Jenna Borresen and Ashley Wilson, who split time in net during the CAA title run. Riddiough plans to once again go with a two-goalie system with both local players bringing different strengths to the table. Wilson, a North Shore High School graduate from Glen Cove, started the second half of games last fall while Borresen (East Meadow High School) played the first half.
With last year’s leading scorer Kristin Desmond now graduated, Riddiough hopes Jenn Buoncore can continue her emergence from last year where she tallied 14 points including the eventual winning goal in Hofstra’s 2-1 CAA title win against Northeastern. The Pride also return scoring threats Bella Richards, Lucy Porter, Sabrina Bryan, Lucy Sheppard Monique Iannella. Riddiough said freshman forward Krista Agostinello will also add some scoring punch after tallying 50 goals at West Babylon High School.
“We have some really good weapons this year,” Riddiough said. “The scoring will be more by committee rather than individually dominated.”
Agostinello leads a 10-player freshman class that Riddiough says has the potential to mirror last season’s newcomers who were instrumental in helping Hofstra achieve a 12-match winning streak en route to the NCAA Tournament. The large freshman contingent includes Merrick native Taylor Curcio, who helped lead Calhoun to the Nassau County Class AA finals during her senior year.
Hofstra kicked off the 2018 season with 1-0 win at Bucknell and a 1-0 loss against Fairfield at home last Sunday. Riddiough set up a challenging non-conference slate that includes road games with national powers Princeton and Virginia as well as a Sept. 16 home tilt against Long Island rival Stony Brook, who reached the NCAA Tournament last year. He hopes the grueling early schedule will prepare Hofstra well for the stiff CAA competition it will face against league contenders like Northeastern, James Madison and Drexel.
“Our league has a lot of parity,” Riddiough said. “You can’t overlook any opponent.”