By Mike Rudin - Sports editor
It was a historic week for Pride volleyball as senior outside hitter Kelsie Wills broke the all-time kills record in the match against Elon University, reaching 1,674 career kills total. Former Pride player Lena Malinowski previously held the title with 1,654 kills since finishing her college career in 1998.
The Pride improved to 14-2 on the year and are starting out undefeated in the conference after beating Elon University and the University of North Carolina-Wilmington. Hofstra continued to dominate, losing only one set against Elon and UNCW and managing to win the last 15 out of their 17 sets.
Sunday’s sweep against UNCW displayed the dominance of the Pride, who maintained an average 4.66 point-differential between each set. The Pride’s hitting percentage averaged at .279 while UNCW compiled a .179. Hofstra managed to execute well, putting up 43 kills versus 14 attack errors, while UNCW could only scrape 35 kills versus committing 23 attack errors.
In the first set, both teams played on an even keel, remaining within one point of each other at most throughout the majority of the set. Around the moment when the teams tied at 16, the Pride managed to create some separation on the scoreboard by going up 21-17 through a series of kills and attack errors. Once Hofstra created the opportunity they maintained their execution to take the first set 25-21.
The second set was all Hofstra. After both teams tied at four, the Pride stormed out in front with six unanswered points in a row. After that, the closest UNCW managed to get within reach was a five-point deficit. Hofstra kept a healthy lead, ranging from five to eight points to eventually win the second set 25-18.
The third set for the Pride got a little tricky as they dominated throughout the first part of the set, until reaching a 20-13 lead. After UNCW had their backs to the wall, they fought for a comeback by hitting a streak to outscore the Pride 9-4 to bring the score within two points, 24-22. Hofstra refused to let the third set slip through their fingers as senior outside hitter Emily Burke put up the last kill of the match and the match-winning point.
Kelsie Wills performed as her usual self, leading the team in kills with 17 on the night while putting up four digs and one block assist on defensive side for the Pride. Veronika Kostova was the Pride’s surprise player of the night, the sophomore middle blocker coming in second with 10 kills in the match for the Pride.
Nuria Lopes da Silva, a senior right side hitter contributed with six kills and Burke was right behind her with five. Burke provided aid for both the offensive and defensive aspects of the match with four block assists, Burke and senior middle blocker Adama Aja leading the category.
The match against Elon University signified the cornerstone of Kelsie Will’s impressive career with the Pride and in favorable fashion with a four-set win.
The Pride started out the first set strong, taking a four-point lead and found themselves staying ahead by the same lead, from 9-5 to 11-7 to 12-8, give or take a few points in between. Then the Pride hit a burst of stellar performance, propelling their lead to 18-10. Once they reached this mark in the set, they were outscored by Elon 5-11 to make the first set a two-point match, 23-21. Yet the Pride fought through and won 25-21.
In the second set, deja vu occurred when the Pride experienced another burst after tying Elon 8-8, propelling them to 18-10 in the set. Yet this time, Hofstra maintained at least a five-point lead until they took the second set by seven points, 25-18.
The tables turned on the Pride in the third set, right after Hofstra took a 1-0 lead everything clicked for Elon and flipped the lead to be in their favor and never looked back. Elon made a statement that they weren’t done after taking a 19-12 lead in the third set and ultimately won 25-19.
The fourth set was a thriller, for not only was the first part of the set either team’s to take, but also with a tie standing at 14-14, Kelsie Wills tied the program-best 1,654 kill record. Two plays later, she got the kill and broke the record with 1,655 career kills. Once the Pride took the 16-14 lead, the rest was history as they managed to keep the lead to the very end, resulting in a 25-21 set and match win. Wills tacked on two more kills.
Wills led the team with 23 kills, her second-best performance on the season. Four Pride players came up clutch with double-digit kill numbers as well. Wills’ stellar 23 kills laid the offensive foundation, but Kostova’s 12-kill performance – as well as both Burke and Lopes da Silva putting up 10 kills – solidified Hofstra’s most productive night. Hofstra scored a season-high 60 kills against Elon, thanks mainly to the four main offensive Pride players, who provided 55 of the 60 kills.
Kelsie Wills was not only the offensive MVP but the defensive as well, leading the team with 17 digs. Corrina Delgadillo, a junior libero stepped up nicely on the defensive side coming in second in digs with 12. Sophomore libero Sophia Black managed to land third with 8 digs on the night.
Hofstra played the dig game well, putting up the second-most amount of digs as a team since playing the University of Connecticut on Sept. 29, when they put up 69 digs against the Huskies. Yet the match against Elon was a season-high in terms of outscoring their opponent in digs. Hofstra’s 63 digs outweighed Elon’s 45 while during the match against UConn, the Pride lost the dig battle 69-71.
The Pride will come home to face the Towson Tigers at the Mack Physical Education Center in their next match this Friday, Oct. 3 at 7:00 p.m. It will be Kelsie Wills’s first time returning to the Pride court as Hofstra’s all-time kills scorer.