By Stacy Troiano
The Pride women's basketball team has come roaring out of the gate thus far this season, and with the help of senior leadership and a couple of big-time games, the team has made a name for itself. Co-captain Vanessa Gidden, Hofstra's top frontcourt player, is one of those seniors who is looking to make it happen this year.
Gidden has been a presence down low, leading the Pride to a 4-1 record to start the season, including a historic win over No. 17 Michigan State, marking the first time the Pride has ever beaten a nationally-ranked team.
Through the first five games, Gidden is averaging 16.4 points and eight rebounds per game.
Gidden was born in Jamaica, but moved to America when she was 10 and attended Stamford High School in Stamford, Conn. The 6-3 Gidden didn't start playing competitive basketball until her freshman year in high school, but that didn't stop her from becoming the team's MVP in both her junior and senior seasons. She was also the first player in 12 years to earn a Division I women's basketball scholarship out of Stamford.
Although she was recruited by over 20 D-I schools, including UMass, Boston College and Penn State, Hofstra caught Gidden's attention and former coach Felisha Leggette-Jack sealed the deal for Gidden.
"Coach Jack had a lot of energy and passion," Gidden said. "She was going to turn this program around and all she needed were some players who were committed to doing so. That's where I came in."
With Jack now the head coach at Indiana and new coach Krista Kilburn-Stevesky at the helm, this year's Pride wants to go beyond last year's success that saw the program win its first ever postseason victory.
"Coach K has a winner's mentality," Gidden said. "She stepped in and made sure we didn't miss a beat. The WNIT [last year] was good, but our ultimate goal is to get to the NCAAs."
Led by a solid core of five experienced seniors, the Pride knows what it will take to get there. Gidden, the self-proclaimed vocal leader of the team, believes the seniors know what needs to be done in their final year here.
"We know that we have no more time. This year is it for us, so we can't just sit back and let things come to us," she said. "We have to go out and get it."
This past offseason, Gidden did just that. She went out and got it along with her teammates on the Jamaican national team, taking home a gold and bronze medal at the Caribbean Basketball Championships over the summer. The team will also have the opportunity to qualify for the upcoming Olympics.
But for now, Gidden is sticking to manning the paint for the Pride in the team's quest for the post-season. The next stop is Sunday's match-up against Georgia State, the first conference opponent of the season, and according to Gidden, hopefully the first of many victims of the Pride.
"It's senior year, so I have no tomorrow," Gidden said. "It's win or go home. There's no next year for us seniors, so you can expect big things from us this year. It's our time."