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Youthful Hofstra looks to rebound

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The past couple of seasons have not been up to standards on the basketball court for the Hofstra ladies. Graduation has been tough on the Pride, and injuries to key players left the team undermanned far too often.

Hofstra got off to a decent 10-8 start in 2017-18, but returned to the win column just once over the last 12 games. The Pride finished a disappointing 11-20 overall, 5-13 in Colonial Athletic Association play. Hofstra, which was picked to finish second to last in the CAA in a preseason poll of the conference’s coaches, won’t have any easy nights in 2018-19.

As always, the CAA will be challenging. James Madison, with junior guard Kamiah Smalls who was selected by the league’s 10 coaches as the CAA Preseason Player of the Year, finds itself at the top of the preseason rankings for the sixth straight season. Drexel, Elon, and Delaware are expected to be among the teams battling for league supremacy.

The Pride stand at 3-4 after losing two of three games at the Challenge in Music City in Nashville. Guard Boogie Brozoski, one of just two seniors on the roster, led the team to a 53-50 over Stetson on the final day of the tournament, scoring a season-high 22 points, pulling down six rebounds, and dishing out six assists. Brozoski was named to the All-Tournament team, as she averaged a team-high 16.3 points per contest, and went 13-of-14 from the foul line.

While Hofstra lost just three seniors, filling the shoes of Olivia Askin, Aleana Leon, and Ashunae Durant (11.9 ppg, 8.9 rpg) will not be easy. The Pride will rely heavily on their deep backcourt, and look to beat teams up and down the floor when opportunities present themselves.

Brozoski, who began her collegiate career at the University of Michigan, played in Hofstra’s final 20 games in 2017-18 after adhering to the terms of the NCAA transfer rules. Brozoski, who was the New York State HS Player of the Year in 2014 and 2015, led the Pride with 13 points per game.

“It’s exciting to have Boogs for a full season,” Hofstra head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey said. “It’s in her mentality to lead by example and lead by work ethic. She brings value all over the court. She’s very motivated, but at times she needs to take a deep breath, let the game come to her, and realize that she has help around her. It’ll be great to have her from start to finish.”

Kilburn-Steveskey is thrilled to have junior guard Ana Hernandez Gil back after she missed an entire season due to injury. Hernandez Gil has tremendous basketball IQ and can shoot the lights out. She scored a career-high 16 points in a loss to Marist in Nashville.

Junior E'Lexus Davis returns at the point for the Pride. Davis is great in transition and has a knack for hitting the seams and getting to the basket. Junior Sica Cuzic, a player who missed nearly all of her sophomore year with an injury, is making up for lost time. Cuzic scored 27 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in a 67-59 victory at St. Bonaventure. Freshman JaKayla Brown, and juniors Petja Krupenko and Sandra Karsten are all in the guard rotation.

Marianne Kalin, a 6-foot-1 junior forward, is tough on the boards and strong on the defensive end of the court. Kilburn-Steveskey believes Kalin can be more of an offensive threat as a junior. Redshirt freshman Jaylin Hines missed all of last season with an injury. Hines has looked good in the early going. She had 10 points and six rebounds when the Pride opened the season with a resounding victory at Iona.

“The league has been wide open for years,“ Kilburn-Steveskey said. “We expected to be picked low, but that just fuels our fire and motivates us. We’re going to look to run and play uptempo, but we can’t become one-dimensional. We’ll give a bunch of different looks, and at times we could play real small. We need to win any way possible.”