While this year’s Hofstra women’s basketball team may be defined, in some eyes, by the production of a very talented freshman class, the Pride’s championship aspirations may actually lie on the shoulders of its most tenured player.
Krystal Luciano, Hofstra’s 5-foot-5-inch starting point guard, has been running the offense in Hempstead since she arrived on campus as a freshman back in 2013.
Quickly inserted into the starting lineup by head coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey in her first season, Luciano took the reins of the Pride and never looked back, improving her assists total from 98 as a freshman, to 124 as a sophomore and 125 last season.
Still, in her time at Hofstra, the CAA championship – and the ticket to the NCAA Tournament that comes with it – remains elusive.
Last year, Hofstra bowed out of the conference tourney in shocking fashion, falling to Northeastern University in the quarterfinals.
However, a thrilling run to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT) quarterfinals wasn’t a bad consolation prize for the Pride.
“It was a long run last year, we made it to the ‘Elite Eight’ for the first time in our program’s history,” Luciano said.
Now, in her last chance at the championship, Luciano can’t wait to get started.
“The season’s finally here. We’ve been here all summer, so I’m very excited for my senior year,” Luciano said.
When Luciano came to Hofstra, she was part of a three-woman recruiting class that featured Kelly Loftus and Elo Edeferioka. Now, three years later, Edeferioka and Loftus are gone, having transferred to Georgia Tech and Old Dominion University, respectively.
In addition, the Pride lost a lot of talent from last year, including Anjie White, Jakelle King-Gilchrist, Asia Jackson and Darius Faulk.
Still, Luciano isn’t worried. She sees a lot of promise in this year’s freshman class.
“We lost a lot people, but all the new freshmen are amazing,” Luciano said. “They bring a lot of different things to the court.”
The freshman class also features a distinctly international flavor, with recruits coming to Hempstead from places like Spain, Norway and Finland.
“It’s very interesting; it’s really cool to interact with people from so many different places. The chemistry between the team now, off and on the court, is pretty good,” Luciano said.
There’s still a lot of familiar faces on the court alongside Luciano, like Ashunae Durant and Aleana Leon.
As the point guard, and at times the only senior on the court, Luciano tends to look at herself as a leader both on and off the floor.
“It’s like a given thing, as a senior and as a point guard, you try to make sure everyone is in the right place and knows every play,” Luciano said.
Luciano and the rest of the Pride impressed in the season opener, beating Marist College by 20 points. Now, with a long season ahead, Hofstra will have to keep that momentum if it wants to reach the top of the CAA.
According to Luciano, this could be the team that finally claims the CAA trophy.
“We have a lot of talent, everybody brings so many different things to the table,” Luciano said. “We just need to work on our consistency … once we have that, it’s going to be really hard to beat us.”