By Nick Mazzarella and Anders Jorstad - STAFF WRITER AND SPECIAL TO THE CHRONICLE
Hofstra was hot heading into its tournament this past weekend. The Pride were riding a four-game winning streak during which they didn’t drop a single set.
They continued their dominance on Friday night, sweeping Fordham in their first match at the Hofstra Invitational. Set scores were 25-8, 25-18, 25-16.
Hofstra jumped out to a 9-2 lead in the first set, which led Fordham to call timeout. But the Rams weren’t able to regroup, recording only two kills in the entire set.
“That was a great start that we’ve been trying to get for a while now,” said head coach Emily Mansur.
The second set wasn’t as lopsided. Before Hofstra closed the set on a 12-4 run, Fordham held a 14-13 lead. Mansur, though, wasn’t shocked by her team’s stagnant start in set No. 2.
“When you win a game 25-8, it’s always very hard to come back with the same attitude,” she said. “We are pushing our team to learn that it doesn’t matter [how many we win by]; we still have to come out the same way.”
In the final set, Hofstra’s lead grew to double digits before the Pride sealed their fifth straight sweep. Senior outside hitter Kelsie Wills, who led all players with 15 kills, ended the match with a kill and a block in the last two plays.
“Good game or bad game, the influence that she has on the match is tremendous,” said Mansur. “She had a great day, which makes our lives much easier.”
Hofstra improved to 8-1, while Fordham fell to 0-8. Senior middle blocker Adama Aja and senior right side hitter Nuria Lopes da Silva contributed to the Pride’s season-high .433 hitting percentage with nine kills each. Sophomore setter Hannah Klemm had 41 assists, and sophomore libero Sophia Black tied Wills with a match-high 10 digs.
Mansur isn’t thinking too much about the winning streak. After being told that her team had won 15 consecutive sets, she laughed and said that she hadn’t been sure of the exact number.
The Pride’s win streak continued against Siena the next day, with a 25-12, 25-14, 25-15 victory. Wills had 12 kills and Emily Burke had 10 kills of her own in the easy win. Siena’s record fell to 1-8 with the loss.
Wills also added four service aces in another dominant outing, and Corrina Delgadillo led the team with eight digs.
But then the Pride had their first hiccup in a while against Sacred Heart on Saturday. The Pioneers snapped the Pride's six-match winning streak in shocking fashion. Hofstra was on a roll, and it took a very strong effort from Sacred Heart to stop that in the final match of the Hofstra Invitational.
After losing a very close first set 25-23, the Pride charged right back and won the next two sets, 25-18 and 25-16, respectively. However, the defense wasn't able to keep Hofstra in the game as the team, at one point up 24-22 in the fourth set, dropped the next two sets and lost the match 3-2.
Mansur indicated a few things didn't go as planned during the course of the match. "It was a tough match," Mansur admitted. "We did not pass well at all which affects every single thing in the game... Also our serving was not very strong which gave them a chance."
Indeed, the team had a total of nine service errors for the match, many of which occurred in key moments for Hofstra.
Coach Mansur assured that servicing would be the number one priority for the team during practices. "Those are the key things that start the game," Mansur said of the importance of servicing. "If you're serving, that's the serve. If the other team is serving, we need to be able to pass to do anything. So we are going to concentrate on that."
Despite the loss, senior Kelsie Wills achieved another milestone and a place in the Hofstra history books by recording her 1,000th career dig, making her just the sixth player in the school's history with at least 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs. She finished the match with 12 kills and 16 digs.
The team will look to learn from the mistakes made on Saturday and take that into the UConn Tournament, which begins on Friday with a match against Bryant, UConn and Columbia.their journey for a conference title.