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Plenty of positives to take out of trip to NCAA’s for volleyball

By Angelo Brussich (Sports Editor)

The Hofstra Pride volleyball team’s magic ride came to an end in its first round of the NCAA tournament. Hofstra fell 3-0 to No. 9 Florida State Seminoles in Tallahassee at the Tully Gymnasium. Coming into the tournament, the Pride knew that they were facing a daunting task. For head coach Kristina Hernandez and her team it was about having fun and enjoying the experience and seeing where that could take them. “I think there was a lot of hustle on defense, and there were some really good swings aggressively off of the blocks that they were doing a really good job with,” said Hernandez. “It just came down to some serving errors here and there that we missed in some key moments, but I’m really proud of them for hanging in there, especially when in the third set and we were up at one point and I thought ‘we’re up! We have the lead!’ so that was really great to see, I’m proud of my team.” Hofstra rode a seven game winning streak, including the three CAA games, to make it into the NCAA tournament, but the Seminoles proved to be too much for underdog Pride. “We knew that it was now or never and in the middle of the season we weren’t going to well but we grew…I don’t really know what came over us but it happened,” said sophomore outside hitter Kelsie Wills. “We wanted to win!” chimed senior outside hitter Nikki Kinnier. For Kinnier and other seniors setter Catalina Charry and libero Kylee Maneja, it was a joyful ride to the ends of their time here at Hofstra. The seniors shown through for Hofstra, as Kinnier was second for the Pride in kills with 12, but only two attack errors on the night. Charry led all players with 20 assists and Maneja was second on night for Hofstra in digs with six. “We just went out there we really just wanted to have fun,” said Kinnier. “This is probably the last time that we were going to get to play together as a team so we just wanted to go out there and enjoy ourselves.” The Pride remained in the game for much of the match, outside of a difficult second set, pushing the ACC champion Seminoles to play its best, as Hofstra would not be an easy out. Sophomore outside hitter Kelsie Wills, the CAA tournament outstanding player award winner, continued her strong play leading the Pride in kills with 14 while also leading the way with eight digs. “We just really came here to play, and for the experience I guess,” said Wills. “We wanted to play so just being aggressive with nothing to lose really helped us out. Right out of the gate the Pride engaged the much higher ranked Seminoles in a difficult battle of a first set. Florida State opened up four separate six point leads, only to have the pesky Pride claw its way back into the set. After reaching an 18-12 lead, Hofstra fought back to close to within two at 21-19, but the Seminoles were able to finish the deal with a tight 25-21 set victory. “I think not thinking about it too much and just going out there and playing really did good stuff for us.” said Kinnier. Set two was all Florida State, after Hofstra evened the score for the first time in the match the Seminoles pulled away with a 13-2 run. At 16-5 the Pride could only muster another five points for the set, and Florida State won it 25-10. The third and eventual final set saw the Seminoles continue to jump on the Pride, gaining a 5-1 early lead. But the Pride continued to show its resilience, a staple for Hofstra this season. The Pride stormed back to take its first lead of the match at 7-6. After a tie score at 7-7 Hofstra took its final lead of the match at 8-7. Then the Seminoles regained the lead, and continued to hold off all Pride attacks. Hofstra pulled to within one at 15-14, but Florida State ended the set and the match on a 10-6 run to close out the Pride 25-20. With that loss the Hofstra run that carried it into the playoffs came to an end. “We always say how the season has its ups and downs, but especially the last four years have just been a great experience, this season especially,” said Kinnier. “This is the best team that I have been on, I love every single one of the girls.” Now Hofstra has to look to the future without its senior anchors, but a young skilled team keeps the future bright. “I think that they have more than enough talent to build off, they have definitely a great foundation and we’re going to continue to build the legacy that we have already built,” said Kinnier. “We have some great players coming in to fill the spots of the three seniors so we’re going to be a really good team next year.”

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