By Mike Rudin - Sports Editor The Hofstra Pride fell in a three-set sweep against the Nebraska Cornhuskers in the first round of the NCAA tournament last Friday, despite the promising start.
“I’m very proud of what Hofstra did here today, we came to play one of the top teams in the country in a great environment,” said head coach Emily Mansur. “Spectacularly played volleyball represented by Hofstra University in the best way possible.”
Kelsie Wills commented with emotion on her final match in a Pride uniform. “We had a phenomenal season,” said Wills. “It was a dream for me; it was beyond what I thought we can finish in my senior season so I’m really thankful to our coaching staff and team.”
Hofstra hit the ground running in the first set of the match, the Pride took a 9-5 lead but the Nebraska Cornhuskers rallied back to go ahead 10-9.
Gradually the teams would tie at 15 a piece but the Cornhuskers took the advantage, scoring four points in a row. Nebraska still continued to score but committed four attack errors that kept the Pride in range by a 21-19 mark.
Ultimately, Hofstra started to gain momentum and refused to roll over as the Pride hit six kills to tie the match at 25 points apiece. But Nebraska stormed away with the first set win with back-to-back kills by Amber Rolfzen and Kadie Rolfzen.
Nuria Lopes da Silva commented on her play in the first set, “It was game-point really, we were trying to get there. It didn’t really affect anything, we were ready for it,” said da Silva. “We’d get the ball up and keep going.”
The factor that caused the Pride to falter throughout all three sets was the amount of errors in the match. The Pride shot 13 kills but committed 10 errors in the first set, 15 kills but 11 errors in the second and 10 kills and 7 errors in the third.
The Cornhuskers continued their momentum and began to roll through in the second set by taking a 12-4 lead. Hofstra played defensively and continued to make some impressive stops in order to turn some of the momentum in their favor, as the Pride cut Nebraska’s lead to 12-8. With a combination of Hofstra attack errors and the Cornhuskers spitting out kills, Nebraska took a 23-14 lead by the end of the match.
Hofstra found its back pinned to wall but miraculously started to push back with some clutch kills by Emily Burke and Veronika Kostova as well as back-to-back point-scoring serves by Brianna Montgomery to cut the lead 23-18.
Nebraska scored one more point afterwards to put Hofstra on the edge. But Hofstra fought continued to make a nearly improbable run as they scored five points to get within one, 24-23. However the Cornhusker’s Kelsey Fien shot a kill and put a dagger in the rally as Nebraska took the second set 25-23. Hofstra’s biggest kill threat Kelsie Wills was contained throughout the entire game, shooting eight kills but committed nine attack errors.
The third set was controlled by Nebraska from start to finish as they took the third set 25-16. Hofstra had a couple of moments that they tried to fight back but didn’t have enough, even with the Pride’s last run of four points in a row.
Lopes da Silva led the team with 10 kills, Kostova shot 9, while Burke and Wills scored 8 in the match. The Pride as a unit made eight blocks and 50 digs that supported their competitiveness but Nebraska put up 19.5 blocks and 49 digs to outdo the Pride.
The Pride’s shooting percentage didn’t reach triple digits in all three sets while the Cornhuskers shot in the .100’s in every set.
The match thus concluding Emily Mansur’s first year with the Hofstra Pride, a season that featured a 28-6 overall record, a CAA championship and an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.