Fresh off a share of the CAA regular season title and a berth in the NCAA Tournament, the Hofstra Pride women’s soccer team will take the field this fall looking to improve on last year’s terrific run. The Pride must navigate a tricky out-of-conference schedule, as well as the always-tough CAA slate to maintain its place on the top of the CAA, and to make a return trip to the NCAA tourney. 8/19 v. Buffalo (@ University Park, Pennsylvania): Hofstra heads to State College, home of the Penn State Nittany Lions, but before the Pride’s date with the defending national champs, head coach Simon Riddiough’s squad must open up the new season against the University of Buffalo. The Bulls finished last year with a 11-7-1 record in the Mid-American Conference (MAC), and a #137 position on the NCAA RPI index. By comparison, Hofstra finished at #28 on that same index. The Bulls will be without Kassidy Kidd, who led the team with 18 points stemming from six goals and six assists. The Bulls do return goalie Laura Dougall, who started all 21 games for the Bulls last season, making 103 saves against just 17 goals allowed.
8/21 @ Penn State: The Pride’s second matchup in the Penn State Invitational will be against none other than the host Nittany Lions, defending national champion, and currently sitting at #2 in the preseason rankings. This team was a juggernaut last season, scoring 64 goals while only allowing 14, including eight straight shutouts in the Lions’ run to the national title. 24 of those goals came off of the feet of Megan Schafer (13 goals) and Frannie Crouse (11 goals), both of whom will be returning to ensure that the Lions’ offense will be dynamic. Penn State will have to look to a new goalkeeper for this season, as Britt Eckerstrom departs the program after posting 68 saves and a .850 save percentage in her senior season last year. That may be the only question mark for a team that returns eight terrific starters from a championship team.
8/25 v. Boston University: The Pride opens up at Hofstra Soccer Stadium with the Terriers from Boston University. The Terriers finished last year 13-6-3 in the Patriot League (#48 RPI), including a 2-1 win over Hofstra in Boston. Boston won the Patriot League championship, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to Penn State. McKenna Doyle, the Terriers’ leading scorer last year with six goals, returns to lead the Terrier offense. The Terriers return a lot of impact players from last season, and should be a tough matchup for Hofstra. Like Penn State, however, Boston is also losing a strong presence in goal, with Alyssa Parisi graduating. Parisi had 68 saves last season, while her presumed successor Hannah Ciolek only registering six minutes of playing time last season.
8/28 v. Columbia: Hofstra’s first opponent of the season to have had a sub-.500 campaign last season, the Columbia Lions struggled to a 7-8-1 finish in the Ivy League, good for #143 on the RPI index. Hofstra knocked off the Lions 2-0 last season. A large part of Columbia’s problem last season was its lackluster offense, only scoring 15 goals, averaging less than a goal per game. The good news for the Lions is that Emma Anderson will be back to build on a great freshman season, scoring seven of the Lions’ 15 goals, while also chipping in a pair of assists. The Lions return nine starters from last season, including most of the pieces of a strong defensive line, anchored by returning keeper Allison Spencer, who recorded 54 saves last season. If the rest of the offense could chip in around Anderson, this team could make some noise this season.
9/2 v. DePaul University (Army Invitational): The Pride heads to West Point for the Army Invitational, and open up the tourney with last year’s Big East runner-up, the DePaul Blue Demons. DePaul finished 12-4-4 last season, dropping the Big East title game to Providence. The Blue Demons boasted one of the best defenses in the country last season, only surrendering 13 goals, but goalie Alejandria Godinez (42 saves last season, .764 save percentage) is gone. DePaul is also losing its top scorer from last season, Elise Wyatt, whose 12 goals were right on par with Hofstra’s own Leah Galton last season. The Blue Demons do return a good amount of game-tested and valuable players on both sides of the ball, but without last year’s main offensive catalyst, and without its anchor on the defensive end, it will be tough to tell just what this DePaul squad is capable of.
9/4 v. UNC-Greensboro (Army Invitational): Hofstra wraps up the Army Invitational by taking on the Spartans from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro. UNC-Greensboro finished 9-9-3 in the Southern Conference, good for a #149 spot in the RPI index. The Spartans are a bit of step down on the schedule for Hofstra, in terms of on-field competition, scoring 29 goals last season while allowing 30. A good chunk of the offensive production came from the now-departed forward Chesney White, who led the Spartans with 18 points, on eight goals and two assists. Of the three Spartans who posted double-digit point totals last season, only one remains, that being Caylin Prillaman (five goals, two assists, 12 points). In goal, UNC-Greensboro returns one of the most tested goalies in the country, Chloe Buehler, who saved a remarkable 99 shots last season in 129 attempts, good for a .767 save percentage.
9/10 v. Army: Army had a dreadful 4-12-2 campaign in the Patriot League last year, clocking in at #239 on the RPI index, easily the lowest-rated opponent that Hofstra will run into at this point in the season. Army only scored 15 goals last year, and the Black Knights’ two leading scorers, Katie Holder (five goals) and Bailey Widman (three goals) are both gone, leaving a void in the Knight’s already-meager offense. Goalie Jordan Cassalia returns to mind the net for Army, posting 60 saves last season while allowing 26 goals. Army does return the majority of its starters, but this team doesn’t seem to be going anywhere this year.
9/14 v. Fairleigh-Dickinson: The Knights of Fairleigh Dickinson University had a 16-6-0 record in the Northeast Conference last season (#89 RPI), with one of those losses coming in Hempstead against Hofstra. The Knights defeated Robert Morris to win the NEC title last year, advancing to the NCAA Tournament. Fairleigh Dickinson scored 50 goals last season, with 16 of them coming off the foot of Rachel Hoekstra (tied for 12th in the nation), while teammate Carly Tice added 11 goals and a team-high 11 assists. Unfortunately for the Knights, both Hoekstra and Tice have graduated, leaving a large gap at the head of the Fairleigh-Dickinson offense. The only other player sticking around that had more than one goal last year will be sophomore midfielder Jessi Reinhardt, who had six goals and seven assists in a very promising freshman season. The Knights’ goalie from last season, Felicia Burr, is gone, along with her backup Deanna Persico. With no experienced goalkeeper, and a lot of production to make up for up front, the defending NEC champs may be in for a lean year.
9/18 @ Fordham: To finish off the non-conference slate, the Pride will head into the Bronx to take on the Fordham Rams. Fordham finished 13-7-2 in the Atlantic 10 Conference (#121 RPI) last season, losing to Duquesne in the A10 Championship game. The Rams are losing top scorers Jessica Widmann (12 goals) and Kristina Maksuti (seven goals), leaving a lot of production to be made up on offense. The strength of this Rams team was the defense, only allowing 19 goals, and Fordham is keeping that defense intact, returning starters Rachel Collage, Nicole Bates and Ally Doyle, as well as goalie Megan Fitzgerald, who recorded 65 saves and posted nine shutouts for the Rams last season. Look for this team to lean even more heavily on stellar defense in the absence of Widmann and Maksuti on the attack.
9/23 @ Drexel: Hofstra roars into CAA play against the Drexel Dragons in Philly after a few days off. Drexel finished 9-9-0 last year, with six of those losses coming in conference action, posting just a 3-6 record in the CAA. Hofstra slayed the Dragons 1-0 in the regular season last year. Drexel had trouble scoring the ball last year, recording just 23 goals, 11 of which came from Vanessa Kara, who will be entering her sophomore season looking to build upon a great performance last year. Drexel will keep the core of last year’s team intact, returning the key members of one of the better defenses in the CAA. The Dragons will be without both of last year’s goalkeepers, Kelsie Frye and Eve Badana. Drexel has four keepers on the roster, but none of them have seen any time in goal at the collegiate level, and that could be a problem for a team that leans on defense like Drexel does.
9/25 @ Delaware: The Pride remains on the road for its second CAA matchup, taking on the University of Delaware Blue Hens. UDel finished 8-9-2 last year (#82 RPI), with a 3-4-2 mark in the CAA. Hofstra routed the Blue Hens 3-0 at home last season. UDel scored only 25 goals last season, from seven different players, but all of those players return to the Blue Hens this season, including Natalie Zelenky, who led the team with 11 goals, and Riley Curtin, who scored four goals and dished out a team-high five assists. UDel’s defense gave up 33 goals, worst in the CAA, and now the Blue Hens will be looking at a new goalkeeper with the departure of Kailyn Rekos, who made 70 saves last season, as well as Rekos’ backup Kelsie O’Donnell, who started three games last season.
9/30 @ College of Charleston: The Pride’s road trip continues down to South Carolina, as Hofstra takes on the College of Charleston Cougars. The Cougars finished 8-9-1 last season, with a dreary 2-6-1 record in the Colonial. Hofstra smacked the Cougars 5-1 last year. Charleston only scored 21 goals last season, but 19 of them came from returning players, including top scorers Jessica Schifer and Raymara Barrato, who each scored five goals last season to lead the Cougars. Charleston’s strength last season came primarily from its defense and goalkeeping, and the Cougars return the core of the back line, and also coming back is one of the top goalkeepers in the CAA, Lauren Killian. Killian led the conference with a .837 save percentage last year, making 72 saves while allowing just 14 goals after taking the starting job in September.
10/2 @ UNCW: The Pride’s final road game of the season comes against the UNC-Wilmington Seahawks, the only CAA team to beat Hofstra in the regular season last year, ultimately costing the Pride an outright CAA regular-season championship. The Seahawks finished 15-7-1 (6-2-1 CAA) last season, with a #34 rank in RPI, second-best in the conference last year behind Hofstra. UNCW advanced to the NCAA Tournament via an at-large bid, and advanced to the second round before losing to Virginia. The Seahawks were an offensive juggernaut last year, scoring 50 goals to lead the CAA. Fortunately for the rest of the conference, UNCW’s leading scorer from last season, Maddie McCormick, is gone, having been tied for the conference lead with 14 goals last season, including the game-winner against Hofstra in the regular season. In addition, Katrina Guillou, who added 11 goals for the Seahawks last season, is also gone, as are Stephanie Bronson (six goals) and Lindsey Byrne (four goals, two assists). With a large chunk of the offense gone, UNCW may have to rely on a defense that was second-to-last in goals allowed, with 28.
10/7 v. Elon: The Pride returns to Long Island for a five-game home stretch to close out the season, beginning with Elon. The Phoenix finished with a 9-8-1 record, but with a dismal 1-7-1 record in the conference (including a 2-0 loss to the Pride), entrenching Elon firmly in the CAA cellar last year. Elon had the stingiest defense in the CAA though, only allowing 19 goals while scoring 26. It will be interesting to see who starts the season in goal for the Phoenix; Hannah Macaulay won her first three starts last season before suffering an arm injury, while Taylor Mohr came in and did a fine job, making 61 saves. Up front, the offense scored 26 goals last season, but then completely vanished during conference play last year, only scoring three goals against CAA opponents. Elon returns two top scorers, Tori Baliatico and Susannah Anderson, who each scored four goals to lead the Phoenix.
10/9 v. William & Mary: Next up for the Pride will see the Tribe of William & Mary, the team that Hofstra split the regular-season title with. Hofstra beat the Tribe 2-1 on the road last season, the only loss W&M had in conference play during last year’s regular season. W&M also advanced to the NCAA tourney, falling to Florida in the second round. The Tribe were a well-balanced team, finishing 3rd in the CAA in goals scored with 41, while also only allowing 20 goals, second in the conference only behind Elon. The Tribe takes a big hit offensively, losing top scorers Katie Johnston and Samantha Cordum (team-high seven goals apiece). W&M also loses last season’s CAA leader in assists, Katie Baxter, who had 10. The elite Tribe defense will be returning, anchored by Elysse Branton, Haley Kent and Clara Brogsdon, who played in all 2,046 minutes of William & Mary’s season last year. However, the Tribe do lose goalie Caroline Casey, who made 86 saves last year while only allowing 20 goals (.818 save percentage). The thing to watch with this team is if the offensive production will be there. If so, then the Tribe will live up to its billing as the preseason favorite, and be very dangerous this season.
10/15 v. Northeastern: The Huskies were a middle-of-the-pack team last season, finishing 4-4-1 in the CAA, 11-8-1 in total. Hofstra knocked off Northeastern 2-1 last season. One thing Northeastern can count on this year is experience: of the 11 players that logged the most minutes for the Huskies last season, nine of them will be returning this season. This includes leading scorers Mackenzie Dowd and Hannah Loppicolo (six goals apiece), as well as Breeana Koemans and Kayla Capuzzo (13 points apiece). However, of the two players in that group that are leaving, one of them is last year’s starting goalkeeper, Nathalie Nidetch. Nidetch made 47 goals while allowing 19. However, backup Jill Quinn saw plenty of time last year, and actually started more games while playing less minutes than Nidetch, so she should be ready to go. This team has the experience edge on most teams in this conference, it’ll be up to the Huskies to capitalize on that.
10/21 v. James Madison: In a rematch of last year’s CAA semifinals, Hofstra takes on the Dukes of James Madison University. JMU finished last season14-7-2, with a 5-2-2 CAA record. The Dukes knocked off Hofstra in the semis 1-0 last year, after the two teams tied 1-1 in the regular season. That winning goal was scored by Ashley Herndon, first-team All-CAA and CAA Tournament Most Outstanding Player last season. The Dukes would go on to win the CAA Tournament, advancing to the NCAAs, where the Dukes fell to eventual national runner-up Duke. Herndon, who co-led the conference last season with 14 goals (tied with Maddie McCormick), returns for her senior season as the preseason CAA Player of the Year. Also returning to this stacked Dukes squad are Allie Bunner (eight goals,) Jennie Sroba (four assists, preseason All-CAA Honorable Mention) and Nicole Caston (logged 2,023 minutes on defense, second-most on the team behind Herndon). Goalkeeping may be JMU’s only noticeable weakness; Ellen Forrest, who graduated was the only JMU keeper to see time last year, notching 110 saves.
10/23 v. Towson: Hofstra’s regular-season finale will come against the Towson Tigers, who finished last season 7-8-4, with a 1-6-2 mark in the CAA. The Tigers fell to the Pride 2-1 in the teams’ meeting last season. Towson struggled on both ends of the ball last season, only scoring 22 goals while surrendering 27. That last total could have been even higher, if not for the monumental effort put forth by Tigers goalie Taylor Sebolao last season. Sebolao saved 118 shots, tops in the CAA, and her .831 save percentage was second only to Charleston’s Lauren Killian. She will be back for her senior season to anchor the Towson defense from the net. Up front, Natalia Pinkney returns after leading the Tigers with seven goals last season. The Tigers return a decent amount of starters, but still lack the offensive firepower to back up Pinkney and really get this team out from the cellar.