By Mike Rudin - SPORTS EDITOR Postseason is coming into formation as the Pride open their first match of the Colonial Athletic Association tournament against Towson University. The third seeded Hofstra Pride take on the sixth seeded Towson Tigers at Hofstra Soccer Stadium this Sunday.
The Pride were ranked No. 1 in the CAA preseason polls and despite now living up to the expectations before the start of the season, Hofstra showed their potential to take on any team in their conference this year. The highlight of the regular season was the upset win over the No. 1 seed Northeastern Huskies on Oct. 11.
Hofstra performed well against CAA competitors this year, winning six of nine matches in the season. Towson faced the Pride once this season and the match resulted with Hofstra shutting out Towson 1-0.
Hofstra’s home field advantage boosts the team’s chances over the Tigers since the Pride won their last four matches at home, all against CAA competitors. Hofstra’s 1-0 win over Towson started the Pride’s recent success, winning five of the last six games of the season. The momentum bolstered Hofstra’s confidence, especially with junior forward Leah Galton on fire, scoring left and right in the last home stretch of the season.
There will be three keys for the Pride in order to come away with a victory against Towson and advance to the semi-finals.
First, the dynamic duo needs to keep the offensive production going, especially Galton. Sam Scolarici already established herself as a premiere threat, leading the CAA in goals in back-to-back years with 33 in total.
Defenses always look out for her, but now Galton has provided an extra spark to the Pride offense and she has been the focal point to the Pride’s recent success. Galton’s four goals in the last two games propelled her to become the second CAA player to score the most goals in 2014 with 13.
Second, Hofstra’s defense needs to continue to keep the ball out of the opponent’s possession and feed it to their offense. Similar to the shutout match against Towson during the season, the Pride defense has to keep the ball in the midfield and in the Tigers’ territory.
Opponents have scored five goals in the last three games of the season, but the three games prior, the Pride shutout the competition each time. If Hofstra’s defense can shut down Towson, for a repeat of their last match, the Pride will greatly increase their chances to win, combined with their strong offense.
Hofstra needs to stay on top of Towson’s leading scorer, Katie Ponce. Execution and shutting Ponce down is key for the defense because the Tigers’ goalie is Hofstra’s biggest threat.
Third, Friederike Merhing needs to be on top of her game when facing Towson’s goalie Erin Quinn, who leads the CAA in saves with 18 on the year and second with a .816 save percentage. Once the Pride can find a strategy to get around Quinn, and play on all cylinders, then they would be set for a win.
History also favors the Pride having tremendous success against Towson in the past, winning 12 of their last 13 matchups.