By Sean Williams - Sports Editor
The women’s soccer team has hit a tale of two opponents in its five-game opening string of games. Hofstra, despite its lofty preseason place at the top of the CAA, has struggled with elite opponents while stomping weaker competitors.
Head coach Simon Riddiough’s strategy is to schedule difficult non-conference games in order to prepare for the rigorous tests of a treacherous conference schedule, something evident in the aftermath of the Pride’s games thus far.
The Pride opened the year on Aug. 22 on the road against the University of Connecticut, a team that is receiving votes in the national poll. The Huskies’ Rachel Hill scored the only goal of the game, a penalty kick in the second half. Hofstra struggled to mount a consistent offense against UConn, taking only 10 shots to the home team’s 21. Hofstra’s star forwards Leah Galton and Sam Scolarici could only muster one shot on goal as the duo were frustrated by the Huskies’ stifling defense.
The Pride then bounced back in a home game against Bucknell on Aug. 24, taking an easy 4-2 victory. Hofstra has historically excelled at home and this game was no different. Sam Scolarici had two goals and the Pride scored all four of their goals in the first half before playing a more passive second half.
Bucknell gave the Pride a scare at the beginning, as the Bison struck first at the start of the game, but once Hofstra found its groove on offense the scoring came in waves.
After the game, head coach Simon Riddiough said that he was not concerned at the team’s early deficit because there was plenty of time to fight their way back into the game and he trusted his offense.
Exactly one week later the Pride again stepped into the friendly confines of Hofstra University Soccer Stadium and breezed past another over-matched opponent.
Hofstra had no problem dispatching the St. Joseph’s Univesity Hawks in a 5-0 beat-down, putting four goals past the visitors in the first half.
“I thought in the first half we came out pretty strong,” Riddiough said, in a post-game interview. “We’ve just got to keep the same mentality for 90 minutes.”
Leah Galton and Sam Scolarici each scored two goals against the Hawks, as the Pride on the whole poured on 24 shots past a clearly frustrated Hawks defense.
Riddiough stated, “This forward line is probably the best in the region and the most dynamic. When they’re clicking and when they’re firing on all cylinders they’re very difficult to stop.”
Next the Pride traveled to face another nationally-ranked opponent, West Virginia University, ranked at 21. Hofstra’s modest winning streak was quickly cut short in a hurry, as the Pride couldn’t get the wheels turning on any semblance of an offensive attack. They concluded the contest with a paltry one shot against WVU’s 14 shots.
However, if the Pride were feeling down after their loss to the Mountaineers, they more than made up for it against the hapless Indiana State University Sycamores, taking a jaw-dropping 9-1 victory. Sam Scolarici scored a hat trick and broke Hofstra’s all-time scoring record in the process, passing Christa Eidenweil’s record, which has stood since 2000. Galton and Jill Mulholland also each scored two goals in the blowout victory.
Riddiough has done a good job of balancing the Pride’s schedule both with powerhouses and winnable games in preparation of the CAA gauntlet that awaits in the fall. The Pride will go on the road again to play two of the best teams in the country this weekend, Duke and Virginia, in an attempt to further calibrate their ability against some of the best in the game.