By Joe Pantorno, Assistant Sports Editor
The 6-1 Hofstra University women's soccer team has not lost a game in four weeks entering the last weekend of September as they opened up CAA Conference play against pre-season favorite James Madison University and Virginia Commonwealth University.
On Friday, September 24, the Pride rolled into Harrisonburg, VA trying to keep its undefeated (6-0) September going as it took on James Madison. The pre-season conference favorites Dukes dropped three of their last four games as they entered the match at an even 4-4. Though the record may be deceiving, the Dukes still hope to do damage in the CAA.
The game was not filled with many offensive chances from open play, but the set piece proved to be the Pride's greatest weapon. In the twenty-first minute, after a free kick was awarded to Hofstra near the right sideline thirty-five yards from goal, the Pride's newest free kick specialist stepped up over the ball. Sophomore defender Amy Turner sent an absolute firecracker over JMU's goalie and into the top left corner of the net to give the Pride the early 1-0 lead.
For the next seventy minutes, the Pride defense stole the show shutting down the Duke's offense. Though there were a few chances for insurance, Hofstra was not able to find a second goal with senior forward Salma Tarik and junior forward Laura Greene narrowly missing chances in the seventy-seventh and eighty-third minute, respectively. The Turner goal was all that Hofstra needed though, as the defense's stellar play continued in the 1-0 victory and the now seven game winning streak.
"This win is a big boost because we didn't play particularly well and we still found a way to win," said head coach Simon Riddiough. "I think the girls after the game were not that excited because individually, they thought they did not do enough to help the team. But the bottom line is that we got the win."
The girls had no time to get down on themselves though because it was straight off to Richmond, VA on the twenty-sixth of September trying to keep the good times rolling against Virginia Commonwealth University. VCU entered the match at 4-4-2 and looking to improve on their 0-2 conference record.
Like the JMU game, there was not much offense to marvel at throughout the majority of the first half. Looking for that offensive spark, Riddiough went to his bench by putting in freshmen forwards Krysti Rodriguez and Ruby Staplehurst.
Riddiough did not need to wait too long for that offensive spark to turn into fire when in the thirty-fourth minute, Rodriguez scored her first collegiate goal off of a rebound from senior forward Grace Hawkins' shot in the six yard box.
The fire continued to burn as Staplehurst ran down a Hawkins long ball behind the VCU defense toward the end of the first half. She easily tucked the breakaway shot into the lower left corner for her first goal at Hofstra as well.
It was business as usual for the Pride defense as it repelled any attackers trying to get through the Hofstra wall. Senior goalkeeper Krista Thorn did not have to make a single save in the first half while freshman Emily Morphitis only had to make one save. The winning streak continued extending the Pride's undefeated run to eight games as it has outshot its opponents 129-48 over the span.
After the first nine games of the season, the Pride stands at 8-1, in first place in the NSCAA Mid-Atlantic region and only five votes out of being ranked in the National Top 25.
"At this stage, I thought we would've been 5-4, maybe 6-3 if it's a good year, possibly 3-6 if we're struggling," said Riddiough. "I knew that we have got the ability, but knowing that and having us all come together, grinding out results when we need to, that's a different matter. So 8-1 it is and I'll take it."
The Pride is off to Philadelphia to take on Drexel on Thursday, September 30.