Returning nucleus to lead Hofstra


Hofstra followed up one of the finest seasons in the history of its women’s basketball program with an up-and-down year. The Pride showed promise early on in the season, getting out of the gate with a 7-3 record, but a stretch that saw the team drop nine of 10 games set the tone for what would be a disappointing 13-18 campaign in 2016-17.

After a challenging non-conference schedule, Hofstra will have its hands full in conference play. James Madison, Elon, and William & Mary are among the preseason favorites in the always tough Colonial Athletic Association. Elon is the defending conference champion.

Hofstra returns much of the nucleus from last year’s squad, including its leading scorer, but must replace point guard Krystal Luciano’s 11.4 points and 6.3 assists per game. Despite have a slew of returnees, a few key injuries and the wait for transfers to become eligible has left head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey with a short bench in the early going.

Hofstra (3-3) has had mixed results over its first six non-conference game. It got off to a good start with a 71-55 victory over Maryland, Baltimore County on opening night. Sophomore E’Lexus Davis had 17 points, eight rebounds and nine assists, and Ashunae Durant scored a game-high 18 points and pulled down 13 rebounds.

After dropping three of its next four games, the Pride made a statement with a 69-66 win over Wake Forest in the consolation game of the Lady Rebel Round-Up hosted by Nevada-Las Vegas over Thanksgiving weekend. Senior Aleana Leon scored 19 points and Durant finished with 18, including a 10-for-12 effort from the free throw line.

Kilburn-Steveskey knows the team will need more than just talent to bounce back from a tough season. “With a few starters down and the transfers unavailable, I knew there would be some tough nights,” Kilburn-Steveskey said. “We just have to fight harder and understand that we can’t cut corners if we’re going to be successful. We’re still figuring things out.”

Durant is the team’s go-to player. The senior power forward led the Pride in scoring and rebounding, averaging a double-double with 16.0 points and 10.6 rebounds per game, and led the conference with 16 double-doubles. Durant was named preseason All-CAA after picking up second-team All-Conference honors as a junior. 

Kilburn-Steveskey has high expectations for Marianne Kalin. The 6-foot-1 sophomore forward has a solid midrange game, and has shown tremendous improvement after a strong freshman season. Talented sophomore Mikayah Croskey will give the Pride a big boost when she becomes eligible in late December. Freshman Mie Hoff provides depth in the frontcourt. 

Hofstra is incredibly deep at guard. Leon started 30 games as a junior, averaging 9.5 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, including a career-high 22 points in a CAA quarterfinal loss to Elon. Leon and Olivia Askin, who nailed 46 three-pointers as a junior, each scored 14 points in the Pride’s 69-63 victory over Holy Cross on November 21. 

Sophomores Sandra Karsten and Ana Hernandez Gil, who is currently out of the lineup with an injury, are serious threats from the perimeter. Sophomore Sica Cuzic, who scored eight points in the victory over Wake Forest, is a versatile scorer and three-point threat. After logging minimal time as a freshman, Davis has shown some flashes at point guard as a sophomore. Petja Krupenko provides depth at guard.

The long-awaited debut of point guard Lauren “Boogie” Brozoski, a transfer from Michigan who played five years of varsity basketball at Long Island Lutheran, will take place when the league schedule begins. Brozoski, who led Lutheran to four state federation championships, was the New York State Player of the Year in 2014 and 2015.

“Boogs is going to be a big spark and will help us tremendously at the point,” Kilburn-Steveskey said. “She understands how we want things to run, and how to get everyone involved. We’re looking forward to seeing her out there. We need to get healthy, and get a little deeper in the post. Fully loaded we’re going to be fun to watch.”