By Anders Jorstad and Nick Mazzarella - STAFF WRITERS
Hofstra extended its winning streak to nine on Friday night, with a 3-2 set win against the Charleston Cougars on the road as well as sweeping the Northeastern Huskies.
The Pride moved to 18-2 and remained undefeated in conference play at 6-0.
In the last of a three-game homestand, the Pride didn’t give up a set against Northeastern. Set scores were 25-23, 25-15, 25-23.
In a back-and-forth first set that had 11 ties, Hofstra held its first lead at 12-11. The Pride didn’t trail after that point, but neither did they gain much separation, as their largest lead was three. Northeastern scored two points to tie the set at 23, but Hofstra took the next two for a 25-23 win.
Senior outside hitter Kelsie Wills and sophomore outside hitter Veronika Kostova combined for nine kills in the opening set, contributing to the Pride’s match-high .400 hitting percentage in that set.
“Kelsie has been our most consistent player throughout the season and Veronika stepped up a lot,” said head coach Emily Mansur.
Hofstra took control in set No. 2, causing Northeastern to use both of its timeouts at 14-9 and 19-11. The Pride have won the second set in four out of five conference matches by an average margin of just under eight.
“By the second set, they really see that our game plan is working,” said Mansur. “And then we get comfortable.”
Hofstra was forced to play catch-up in the third set with the Huskies. Northeastern jumped out to an early 6-1 advantage and saw its lead grow as many as seven at 17-10. But the Pride closed the set on a 15-6 run, avoiding what would have been their third straight match that featured a fourth set.
“I think they are starting to understand the urgency of coming back,” said Mansur.
Wills recorded a match-high 16 kills and a team-high 16 digs. She wasn’t alone on offense though, as senior middle blocker Nuria Lopes da Silva (eight kills), senior right side hitter Emily Burke (seven kills), and Kostova (seven kills) all helped to balance the attack.
“Kelsie is getting more help, which allows her to really rise at the end of the match,” said Mansur.
Freshman outside hitter Jamie Bredahl led Northeastern with 13 kills – seven of which came in the first set alone. Mansur had high praise for Bredahl, the 2013 CAA rookie of the year.
“She’s a great all-around player,” Mansur said. “She was good throughout the whole match.”
When asked about her thoughts heading into Friday’s match against College of Charleston Mansur said, “It’s going to be a good test for us.”
A challenge is exactly what the match would prove to be, as the Pride squeaked past Charleston with a 3-2 victory, their ninth straight.
Diving into the match, it was truly a tug-of-war all the way through. While the Pride claimed the first set by a score of 25-17, Charleston answered right back with a 25-17 set win of its own. The two teams once again traded off sets and competed into a fifth set, which Hofstra managed to narrowly grab 15-13.
The statistics for the Pride in this match tell a slightly different story than one might expect. While Kelsie Wills had a fairly solid outing with 17.5 points on 15 kills, it was Veronika Kostova and Nuria Lopes da Silva who carried the team on offense.
Kostova has seen her playing time increase steadily over the course of the season, and the reason for this change has become obvious. One could easily argue this was the best match of her career as she racked up 18.5 points aided by 17 kills. Lopes da Silva had an even more impressive evening with 25 points on 20 kills and a monstrous .515 attack percentage.
Coach Mansur praised her stars’ efforts tonight, saying, “Veronika was amazing. Veronika started to be the Veronika I know she is going to be for us throughout her career at Hofstra. She had fun, she wasn’t afraid, and she wanted to get the win. Nuria Lopes da Silva was just unstoppable. [With her] blocking, hitting and serving, she was our heart today.”
This was certainly a huge step for Kostova, a sophomore who can build upon this game and become a player other teams fear for years to come. A performance like this on the road against one of the best teams in the conference is definitely going to open some eyes.
It wasn’t just the offense that was firing on all cylinders in this game either. Five Hofstra players recorded double digits in digs: Wills (10), Hannah Klemm (14), Kaitlyn Krause (15), Corrina Delgadillo (16), and Sophia Black (23).
Speaking about her team’s defense, Coach Mansur said, “As a team it was just a great effort. We’ve been talking so much about defense. Last week against Northeastern Sophia had a tough game, but she stepped up and she knows what we expect from her. Corrina as well, [and] Kaitlyn Krause. All three of them played a great back row for us, giving us the opportunity to go up and get more swings and get a chance to score more points.”
In addition to her superb defensive performance, Klemm was key to the offense with a jaw-dropping 52 assists. These numbers for the team become especially impressive when you consider the context, something Coach Mansur spoke about in the post-game interview: “It was huge for us to be able to come to their home after traveling and after playing such a tough weekend and still being able to win in five and to have the energy, the body and the mind to be able to do that. That’s huge. It shows us how far we can get if we work hard.”
Luckily, the Pride will finally get a week to recuperate and prepare for a weekend road series against William & Mary on the Oct. 17 and James Madison on Oct. 18. It’ll be interesting to see how long the team can keep this roll going.