Hofstra’s volleyball team has its eyes set on one thing as it enters the second half of the season: a return to the postseason.
The Pride is currently 12-5 overall, but has opened conference play 2-2.
After four-set losses to both the College of Charleston and University of North Carolina at Wilmington, Hofstra has rebounded nicely with a pair of victories this past weekend.
The Pride swept perennial CAA title contender James Madison University on Friday night, before picking up a four-set victory over the College of William & Mary on Sunday afternoon to get to .500 in conference play
“We started the year very good and they were working very hard, so I think that gave us the momentum,” head coach Emily Mansur said.
“And then the two [conference] losses, we dropped on that a little bit.”
Last season, the Pride made it to the CAA Tournament as defending champions, but fell in the quarterfinals in a 3-2 upset to Charleston.
The team looks to regain its title this season.
The team has dominated offensively, outscoring opponents 1,147-986 in its first 17 games of the year.
“I think that the work ethic we have this year – it’s the first time we have a whole group with that mentality – so if we keep building on this, we’re going to see success,” Mansur said.
The Pride has played well at home, posting a 6-0 record, but has struggled on the road with a 2-3 mark.
Despite notching more kills than its opponents, the Pride’s main problem this season is errors.
“They’re a very good team, so if we can cut the errors that we had by half, we’re going to win matches.
“I think that we really brought [the losses] upon ourselves, which gives us a goal. If we better ourselves there is no reason that we should be losing,” Mansur said.
On Sept. 25 against UNCW, the defending CAA champions, the squad committed 27 errors.
“They are great teams, but we are much better than what we did this [first] weekend,” Mansur said.
In both matches, freshman Laura Masciullo led the team in points.
Masciullo has been a standout player, earning the title of CAA Rookie of the Week, as well as MVP of the Hofstra/Stony Brook Invitational.
She ranks second overall on the team in points, averaging 3.51 points per set and totaling 200 kills.
“She is a competitor and I think we were missing someone with a go-getter mentality. She wants to play hard all the time, and she is a very bright volleyball player,” Mansur said.
“She doesn’t care if it’s the beginning or end of the match, she wants every ball.”
Senior Hannah Klemm, defending CAA Setter of the Year for two consecutive seasons, is not leading the assist category in the CAA, but still remains the team’s top setter.
“She gets everybody around her to work hard. I think the reason she’s not leading in sets this season is because we changed the system that we run,” Mansur said.
“We went into a 6-2 [system] for the first 10 matches before Leticia Valente got hurt, which only allowed her to have half of the sets that she usually has, but she has been a great team player.”
A 6-2 formation aligns the court with four hitters and two different setters as opposed to the more common 5-1 formation, where there is only one setter.
As the team enters the portion of its schedule solely of CAA conference games, they are looking to improve.
The Pride hopes to peak at the right time in order to continue momentum into tournament play.
“If we can decrease the errors, that’s going to be the key because we are out-killing everybody, even on the matches that we’ve lost,” Mansur said.
In addition to Klemm and Masciullo, Mansur pointed out how impressed she is with libero/defensive specialist senior Sophia Black.
“Sophia Black has been phenomenal. She really is the heart of this team. She deserves so much more credit. She has been the light that the team needed in a lot of ways,” she said.
As the team continues its stretch of 14 consecutive conference games, they are focused on winning, and putting everything they have out on the court.
The Pride looks to continue its hunt for a postseason spot as it takes on Towson University on Thursday, Oct. 6, the third of a five-game stretch at home.
“I think we have to continue to grow as a team and work on us, and not worry about who we are playing,” Mansur said.
She continued, “I really, truly believe that this is the best team in the conference when we are healthy and playing our best. Now we have to figure out a way to play our best all the time.”
This matchup against Towson, another team that expects to contend for the CAA crown at the end of the year, will be the Pride’s first true home game of the season.
Due to Hofstra’s hosting of the 2016 presidential debate, the Pride had been temporarily booted from its usual home, the Mack Physical Education Building.
The Pride finished up its run in the Fitness Center with Sunday afternoon’s win over William & Mary, capping off a 6-0 record in the Fitness Center..
For the new members of the Pride, Thursday night’s contest will be the first time playing in the Physical Education Building.