By Angelo Brussich, Staff Writer
"We don't want to give anything away" was the message that Hofstra University volleyball head coach Kristina Hernandez preached going into the Pride's final home stand of the regular season.
After failing to capitalize on an opportunity against Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) Friday, losing 3-0, the Pride roared back Saturday against William & Mary winning 3-0 on senior night at the Mack Physical Education Center.
Saturday's senior night brought a wave of emotions, as it was possibly the last game at home for seniors middle blockers Taylor Moore, Erika Charry and the injured Anissa Whitney. It was the seniors that led the way for Hofstra against William & Mary as E. Charry and Moore combined for 24 kills, 12 each, in Hofstra's strong CAA win.
"They knew it was the end for them and they were pretty fired up," said Hernandez. "When you're a senior and you come towards the end you kind of go into a different gear."
Hofstra had an impressive set one victory, winning by 10 points with the final score 25-15. Although its offense played strong the defense played an important role, holding the Tribe to a .000 hitting percentage in the game.
Freshman outside hitter Kelsie Wills chipped in eight digs to lead the defensive charge for the Pride.
Hofstra took the lead early on in the match at 5-4 and never looked back going on a 5-0 and 6-0 point run to seal the game early.
The next two sets proved to be a much greater challenge for Hofstra but managed to come away with narrow 25-22 and 25-21set victories.
The second set alone saw six ties and four lead changes with Hofstra taking the lead for good at 17-16.
William & Mary refused to go down quietly, cutting the lead down to one point at 23-22, but Hofstra pulled out the eventual victory. It was Moore, with her family in the stands, leading the way for the Pride with five of her 12 kills in the set.
Set three was another close contest that saw Hofstra take an early lead, but William & Mary continued to chip away until they eventually tied it at 16. With the game tied at 18, Hofstra went on a 5-0 run that set up the 25-21 victory. The Pride hit at an impressive .429 hitting percentage and came away with the 3-0 match win.
Seniors were not the only bright spots on this night as sophomore outside hitter Nikki Kinnier chipped in 10 kills while junior setter Catalina Charry had 37 assists and 10 digs, giving her an eleventh double-double of the season.
"Everybody played really well," said Hernandez. "I think all the way around everyone contributed…and made it really smooth for us to get that win."
This win could not have come at a better time for Hofstra considering the disheartening loss to VCU on Friday night.
Hofstra had a chance to gain a spot in the CAA standings and move into the sixth and final playoff spot.
Instead, Hofstra fell 3-0 and seemed off its game all night. Apparent miscommunications along with VCU finding the holes on the floor was the theme of the night as Hofstra just could not muster up a strong enough attack.
Kinnier was one of the lone bright spots for Hofstra as she led the match with 14 kills while also adding in six digs, three service aces and three blocks, but with outside hitter Annisa Whitney still out due to injury the Pride needed even more production from the middle.
"We needed Erika [Charry] to play a little better, she was a little late to get involved. We probably needed a little more productions out of our middles early on in the first two sets," said Hernandez. "We rely on her [Erika] a lot offensively and we need to see more from her."
The first set was a strong defensive performance by VCU as they held Hofstra to a negative .032 hitting percentage while hitting at a .286 percentage themselves.
Kinnier had three service aces in this set alone, but that was not enough to fend off the Rams defense and the Pride lost the set by eight points, 25-17.
Game two saw a much closer score as the two teams were tied eight times through the contest. The final tie score came at 21 until a VCU kill and a Hofstra attack error sealed the fate of the match.
Attack errors were an issue for the Pride the entire match as they doubled up VCU with 24 attack errors compared to 12 for the Rams.
"I think at the end of the matches we stick close and then we just make errors that we weren't doing at the beginning," said Hernandez. "We just kind of need to focus on closing it out."
The third and final set was Hofstra's most competitive as both teams went back and forth throughout the game. Hofstra held the lead at 17-12, but VCU went on an 8-0 run to take a 20-17 advantage. Hofstra came within one point at 22-21, but VCU scored the next three to put away the Pride with a 3-0 match win.
Hofstra now finds itself sitting at 13-14 overall with a 4-6 record in CAA play and is just one game out of the last playoff spot in the CAA with four games to play.
"We need to chuck it out…not worry where we are or what we're doing," said Hernandez. "Just kind of worry about ourselves and put ourselves in a position to sneak in there [the playoffs]."