By Kevin Carroll - STAFF WRITER
Time to break out the old dancing shoes folks because, for the second time in the past three years, the Hofstra volleyball team will play on the sport’s grandest stage, the NCAA Tournament.
The Pride is coming off a heart stopping five-set victory over the College of Charleston to capture the CAA conference championship, and win an automatic bid into this year’s national tournament.
The Pride will enter tournament play with a record of 28-5, and hungry to make a statement against foes from larger and more prominent conferences.
They will have a chance to do just that, as Hofstra will play the 14th-ranked University of Nebraska Cornhuskers in their first-round matchup.
Nebraska hails from the Big Ten, regarded as one of the best conferences in volleyball, as well as in most other sports. The Cornhuskers come into the match sporting a 20-9 record, with an impressive 14-6 mark in conference play.
On paper, this Cornhuskers squad looks like it may be more than Hofstra can handle. The Nebraska attack is anchored by twin hitters Amber and Kadie Rolfzen, a pair of 6’3 sophomores that are among the best in the Big Ten in kills.
Another factor into the offense for Nebraska is junior Kelsey Fien, also measuring in at 6’3. The Cornhuskers have a height advantage on the Pride, with a number of players above the six foot mark they will likely look to control the net against the shorter Pride squad.
Looking to assist the Nebraska hitters in their quest for kills is senior setter, Mary Pollmiller. Pollmiller averaged 10.17 assists per set during the regular season, making her the fourth-best in the Big Ten.
Bolstering the Cornhusker defense is libero Justine Wong-Orantes, averaging just under four digs per set for Nebraska. Helping her out is freshman Annika Albrecht, who is already doing good things for Nebraska in her first year with the program.
While, on paper, Nebraska may have the advantage, it is essentially common knowledge that come tournament time, stats and records go out the window. Volleyball’s biggest stage is just waiting for a team to step up and provide the upset that shocks the world.
Hofstra may not play in the biggest conference, or play the best teams, but the tenacity and heart of the Pride is second to none.
To pull the upset in Seattle, the Pride has to win the battle at the net. They may be outsized, but Nuria Lopes da Silva’s leaping ability turns her into a giant at the net.
Look for strong performances from Hofstra’s hitters, whether it is Lopes da Silva, Emily Burke or CAA Player of the Year Kelsie Wills.
Hofstra setter Hannah Klemm has had an incredible season, earning CAA Setter of the Year honors, and she must continue her superb work assisting the big hitters.
Hofstra’s back line must keep up the hustle and ferocity that they’ve been playing with all year by going all out for every ball and not stopping until the blow of the referee’s whistle.
In order to send the Cornhuskers home early, the Pride has to put forth the type of total team effort that we have all become accustomed to throughout the season.
The first round of the NCAA Volleyball Tournament will be played from Dec. 4 to Dec. 6, with 64 teams clashing for a chance at glory. Hofstra will take on Nebraska on Dec. 5 at 8:00 pm. at the Devaney Center in Lincoln, Nebraska.
The Cornhuskers may be the favorite to advance to the next round, but don’t be surprised if the Pride pull off the upset, and cut the music on Nebraska’s trip to the big dance.