By Joe Pantorno, Sports Editor
After a testing Virginia road trip that included a 5-0 loss to no. 1 Old Dominion, the Hofstra University field hockey team is heating up with a weekend sweep with a 7-0 thrashing of VCU and a 4-1 victory over James Madison.
"We've played as a team the minute we stepped out on the field," said head coach Kathy De Angelis. "It's something we've been working on since the beginning of the season."
Hofstra jumped out of the gates in its Friday match up against the Rams with its breakthrough coming seven minutes into the game when a penalty corner was distributed nicely to senior defender Amy-Lee Levey on the left side of the shooting area, who rocketed a shot into the back of the net.
"It was really a fantastic day," said Levey. "We really started having the connections going and getting different people scoring."
Hofstra almost doubled its lead a minute later when senior Genna Kovar streaked down the right side of the field and sent a centering pass intended for senior midfielder Darrah Rachman who had a wide open net, but could not get her stick on it.
Chances kept coming for Hofstra, but none proved to be the second goal though the Pride was monopolizing possession.
Kovar continued to cause problems with the VCU defense as speedy runs created some good scoring chances, but Rams goalkeeper Erin Jablonski proved tough to beat.
Hofstra had another golden chance in the last two minutes of the first half when freshman forward Jonel Boileau was one on one with Jablonski, but the keeper came out the victor yet again against the Hofstra attack, keeping the score at 1-0 going into halftime.
"We weren't finishing," said De Angelis. "We were getting complacent. We were going in, getting tackled and we continued to do it."
VCU's offense was non-existent in the first half, not registering a shot on goal as Hofstra's defense stifled any sort of attack the Rams were able to muster.
Hofstra opened up the second by finally getting its second goal of the game when a long ball in from sophomore midfielder Stephanie Cowles found Kovar alone in front of the net who slotted it past Jablonski with five minutes gone in the second.
Kovar was in the middle of Hofstra's third goal just three minutes later when she sent in a pass for junior forward Krizia Layne to the right of the penalty spot, who shed a VCU defender and sent a low, hard shot into the bottom left hand corner of the net.
The floodgates opened when junior midfielder Micaela Gallagher sped past defenders down the right side and found Kovar in front of the net who poked it into the back of the net just two minutes after Layne's goal. The goal was Kovar's second goal of the game.
"I know we had this [scoring] capability coming into the game," said De Angelis. "We also know VCU is quite strong also. If we keep our transition game and our attack and defense together, we can score on anyone in the country."
Hofstra's fifth came five minutes after Kovar's, when senior midfielder Arielle Williams sent her shot off a penalty corner under the arm of a diving Jablonski.
VCU's first shot on goal came with 19:36 left in the second half, a meek backhanded effort that senior goalkeeper Amanda Heyde easily kicked away from harm. Hofstra's net minder was far from tested throughout the match.
Layne got her second of the match, Hofstra's sixth, with eighteen minutes remaining in the game off of a penalty corner when the ball was laid off perfectly to the midfielder by junior defender Melissa McCarthy for the easy tap in.
Kovar got her hat trick after a weaving run through an array of VCU defenders allowed her to convert her backhander with 13:48 remaining in the game.
"It was a great game overall for the team and for myself," said Kovar. "It was just good to get the win
With time running down, De Angelis was able to clear her bench and give some of her second stringers some quality playing time.
Hosting again on Sunday, James Madison, who the Pride have not beaten in its last five matches coming into Sunday, brought a tougher conference test for Hofstra.
"We knew coming into the game that James Madison was incredibly tactically sound," said De Angelis. "We knew they were going to throw some new things at us and they did."
For the second straight game, senior defender Amy Lee-Levey opened the scoring off a penalty corner. Junior forward Krizia Layne laid off a perfect pass to Levey who bolted a shot into the back of the net with 15:50 remaining in the first half.
The Levey goal proved to be the only goal of the half, as both defenses were stifling and aggravating the attacks of each side.
Senior forward Genna Kovar moved alone into second place on Hofstra's all-time points list after she assisted in the Pride's second goal, coming just a minute and a half into the second, when she streaked past a defender down the right side and centered for Layne who finished beautifully into the top right corner of the net from the left side of the circle.
James Madison had a goal wiped away three minutes later after a deflected shot was put in with a high stick.
Hofstra's defense began absorbing a lot of James Madison offensive pressure, keeping the clean sheet.
"The back line and Heyde did a tremendous job and were incredibly steady," said De Angelis. "They did a great job containing great speed and great talent."
Senior midfielder Arielle Williams scored Hofstra's third goal of the game off a penalty corner when her shot was deflected above the wood into the back of the net with 12 minutes gone in the second half.
Kovar single handedly gave Hofstra its fourth goal with 18:19 left in the game when she went on a winding run, shedding multiple defenders and sending a hard, low shot right on the edge of the shooting area into the bottom left corner of the net.
James Madison broke Hofstra's shutout span of 124 minutes when a series of deflections left alone freshman Bethany Ashworth in front of senior goalkeeper Amanda Heyde's goal. Ashworth breezed past Heyde and slotted it into the back of the net with six minutes left.
The two wins improve Hofstra's record to 10-5 overall and 3-1 in CAA play.