By: Joe Pantorno (Editor-in-Chief) Coming into the season opener, Hofstra women’s soccer head coach Simon Riddiough was hesitant in saying that the Pride’s match-up against Big 10 power Ohio State was a statement game. A sublime volley from sophomore striker Lulu Echeverry off a corner and a long range spin of luck from sophomore Sam Scolarici certainly made a statement in the Pride’s 2-0 win over the Buckeyes on Friday night.
“Fantastic team effort,” said Riddiough. “We showed what we can do when we all come together and the team did a tremendous job. It is [a statement game] if we continue winning.”
Hofstra had some issues to address coming into the game as three of its four defenders were unable to start. Senior Brooke Bendernagel was suspended for a red card she received in last year’s finale, junior Brittany Farriella was struggling with fitness and junior Tara Kerns had picked up an injury.
In place of his three starters, Riddiough called upon sophomores Erin Havard, Caylin Dudley, normally a striker, and freshman Leah Galton joined junior Ruby Staplehurst, the only regular defender starting.
Ohio State flew out of the gates with three corners in the game’s first five minutes as Hofstra struggled to find its form. The backline however, was solid, especially the English duo Staplehurst and the freshman Galton, who showed exceptional strength and patience as the Buckeyes kept knocking at the door, but Hofstra’s backline let in no intruders.
“It was great, I loved working with Galton, getting that English influence back there,” said Staplehurst. “We set out to have lots of communication going and we kept that…Erin [Havard] did a really good job, Caylin [Dudley] stepped up her game.”
The breakthrough came in the 60th minute when an out-swinging corner from Havard on the right side met the right foot of Echeverry who, in a scissor kick like motion; one timed the cross into the top left corner of the net from 13 yards out to give Hofstra the unexpected lead.
“I abuse Lulu every day for trying to be extravagant and flashy with her bicycle kicks,” said Riddiough. Today was unbelievable…you don’t get that in the women’s game. To get that contact, that timing, takes a lot of effort and it paid off.”
The Buckeyes continued to press but Hofstra would repel all attacks as Staplehurst led through grit and smart play while Galton continued to impress on her debut with last ditch tackles and vision seen only in very few upperclassmen.
“Coming into it as a freshman, it was a big hyped up game,” said Galton. “I was very nervous, but then we got into it…I completely forgot about it, got my teammates to help me, got on with it and did what we do best; play good football.”
“For a freshman performance, it doesn’t get much better than that,” said Staplehurst.
“She’s a special player,” said Riddiough. “She kept us together. When you have an athlete like that…it’s a luxury.”
Thirteen minutes later, after she dispossessed an Ohio State attacker, Scolarici made her way towards goal and lofted a shot from 40 yards out that looked destined to end up into the arms of Ohio State keeper Rachel Middleman. She came out to make the catch on her right hip, but the ball squirted through her arms and ended up in the back of the net.
“To be fair to Sam Scolarici, she worked her backside off,” said Riddiough. “I was thinking it wasn’t really a good decision…but she must have put some really wicked spin on it which obviously bamboozled the goalkeeper.”
“I think it’s just fantastic and it came at the right time,” said Staplehurst. “I mean, we’ve been working hard for two weeks in pre-season and there’s been a good feeling…this was just sort of the icing on the cake.”
Hofstra is on its way to Harrisonburg, VA to take on Temple and Georgetown at the Fairfield Inn by Marriott Invitational next Friday.