Fresh off a rebound 2017 campaign, Hofstra women’s lacrosse is fueled to take its shot at postseason play.
The Pride nearly tripled their winning total from a disappointing three-win 2016 season with an 8-8 mark that included a 17-15 upset victory against 13th-ranked Towson. With two of last year’s top five scorers back, sixth-year head coach Shannon Smith has high hopes that Hofstra can make further strides this spring.
“There is a lot of excitement for this season and around the program in general,” said Smith, who broke the New York State points record at West Babylon High School and later captured a Tewaaraton Trophy during her storied collegiate career at Northwestern. “There is a lot of energy and positivity.”
Sophomore midfielder Alyssa Parrella was one of the top scoring freshmen in the nation last season with 47 goals and 29 assists. The 2017 Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Rookie of the Year entered her second season at Hofstra in better shape and has been on fire early on with 18 points during the Pride’s first three games including six goals in a 13-12 overtime loss to Fairfield on Feb. 24.
“She has become a real student of the game,” said Smith of Parrella, who was a two-time All-County player at Miller Place High School. “She is a force to be reckoned with.”
Parrella is complemented on offense by rising sophomore Alexa Mattera, who tallied nine goals early in the season to already equal her freshman season year total. Senior midfielders Drew Shapiro and Carlee Ancona provide the Pride additional experience in near the goal to take the defensive heat off Parrella. Junior attacker Jenna Budd is also emerging as an offensive threat after registering two goals against Fairfield.
The Pride gained some new scoring weapons from a strong recruiting class that included Long Beach High School product Katie Whelan. The freshman midfielder is off to a strong start to her collegiate career with four points and two caused turnovers after three games.
“She is a tremendous, tremendous athlete,” said Smith of Whelan, who achieved 56 points her senior season at Long Beach while leading the Lady Marines to the county title game for the first time in program history. “She is a workhorse and will do everything you ask of her.”
Hofstra returned most of its foundation on defense including seniors Amanda Seekamp, Elena Schorr and Shea McAvoy, junior Annalise Martin and sophomore Darcie Smith, a former three-sport standout at Wantagh High School. Smith made the CAA All Rookie team as a freshman and Smith is looking for continued progression this spring with more of a presence on draw controls.
“We’re definitely looking for more from Darcie this year,” Smith said. “She got in better shape and is a little quicker.”
An experienced defensive unit will look to protect shots in front of junior goalie Maddie Fields. The Maryland native record nine saves in a 15-10 win at Wagner on Feb. 20 and held Bucknell to a single goal in a 13-1 Hofstra win on Feb. 17.
“We need consistently from Maddie in the cage,” Smith said of her starting netminder. “Maddie has been working very hard.”
Hofstra was picked to finish fifth in the CAA preseason poll in a league that features two teams ranked in the top 10 nationally in James Madison and Towson. The top four teams reach the CAA tourney with a chance to grad the conference’s automatic qualifier to the NCAA Tournament.
“The CAA is tremendous,” Smith said. “It’s a tough conference to be part of.”
After three straight road games at defending national champion Maryland, Quinnipiac and Johns Hopkins, Hofstra returns home on March 16 for a Friday evening game versus Dartmouth starting at 5 p.m. The Pride opens CAA play on their home turf of Shuart Stadium on April 6 versus Elon with a 5 p.m. opening draw.