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Hofstra fueled for NCAA run

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Hofstra men’s lacrosse team is playing with a heavy heart this season following the tragic death of a beloved teammate in early January.

Sophomore defenseman Joe Ferrisso died on Jan. 3 following injuries he suffered in a New Year’s Day crash near his Copiague home. The Kellenberg graduate had just earned a spot with the team last fall, but in his few months with the program made a lasting impact.

“We’re trying to move forward day-by-day while keeping his vision in our head,” Hofstra head coach Seth Tierney said. “He’s in our thoughts.”

Hofstra is also fueled by how last season ended. The Pride just missed out on an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament when Drexel handed it an 11-10 triple overtime loss in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) title game.

Leading Hofstra’s effort to make the program’s first NCAA Tournament since 2011 is junior attackman Sam Llinares, who earned All-American honorable mention honors last year after tallying 53 points. Freshman Brendan Kavanagh, a Rockville Centre native and former Kellenberg teammate of the late Ferrisso, is among a group of newcomers looking to provide offensive support for Llinares on the attack unit.

“He’s a competitor and he comes from a competitive family,” said Tierney of Kavanagh, whose older brother Matt stars at Notre Dame.

Hofstra returns some key experience in the offensive midfield including senior captain Mike Malave (26 goals) and junior Kyle Hendrickson (17.) They are among multiple midfield scoring threats that also includes Wantagh High School product Brian von Bargen, Tyler Begley and freshman Dylan Alderman.

A key component of Hofstra’s offensive attack is sophomore faceoff specialist Kris Clarke, who won 56 percent of his draws as a freshman, Clarke, a Bellmore native and Chaminade graduate, won 17 of 18 faceoffs in a dominating 18-0 win against Manhattan on Feb. 24. “Kris has come back very focused,” Tierney said.

Hofstra’s defensive midfield is considered among the best in the nation led by seniors John Reicherter, Steven Romano and Ryan Reilly, Reicherter, who was an All-County player at Wantagh, returns after missing the majority of last season with a foot injury.

Anchoring Hofstra’s close defense is junior Finn Sullivan, a Massachusetts native who earned All-CAA first team honors in his first season starting for the Pride. Senior goalie Chris Selva is back for his third season starting in net.

Seniors lead women’s lacrosse
After making back-to-back CAA Tournament appearances under new head coach Shannon Smith, Hofstra women’s lacrosse is eyeing the next level in 2015 with a core group of seniors.

Hofstra’s 2014 season ended in heartbreak when Towson edged the Pride in the CAA semifinals 6-5 on a goal with just eight seconds remaining. The bitter disappointment of that loss and falling to Towson in the 2013 CAA finals is fueling Hofstra’s motivation in 2015 to reach the program’s first NCAA Tournament since 2007.

“They have that fire in their eye this year,” said Smith, who led Northwestern to three national titles during her playing career from 2009 to 2012.

Among the seniors looking to lead Hofstra to that next step is defender April Iannetta, a Wantagh graduate who won the 2014 CAA defensive player of the year award and also is versatile enough to contribute on the offensive end of the field. Iannetta anchors an experienced defensive unit that also includes senior Abby Wilson along with juniors Lindsey Alfano and Shelby Milne.

Another key senior with local roots is goaltender Kelsey Gregerson, a former standout at South Side High School in Rockville Centre who was fourth nationally in save percentage last year. “She was one of the top goalies in the country last year,” Smith said of Gregerson.

Senior attacker Brittain Altomare has led Hofstra in scoring her first three seasons and tallied eight points in a season-opening 15-11 win against New Hampshire. Other offensive threats include Tiana Parrella, Amanda Seekamp, Morgan Knox, Drew Shapiro and Becky Conto.

Conto, a West Hempstead native, missed most of last season with an injury, but is being slowly brought back into the lineup this year as a midfielder. The Sacred Heart Academy product won 2013 CAA Rookie of the Year honors after leading the Pride with 55 draw controls.

Hofstra faces longtime power Johns Hopkins in a key non-conference game on March 14 at 3 p.m., preceded by a men’s game against Providence at noon.

For further information on Hofstra’s 2015 lacrosse schedules, log onto gohofstra.com.