Freshman duo dominates on volleyball court
The Hofstra volleyball team is having a terrific season so far, enjoying success that can be attributed to a good mix of veteran leadership and young talent. Among this young talent are two freshmen, Aisha Skinner and Maddie Appleton, each making a thunderous impact for the Pride since stepping on the court on day one.
Appleton and Skinner come from total opposite corners of the world. Appleton grew up in a small town in Michigan, while Skinner was raised in Germany. However, they both found their way to Hofstra and the team is grateful for it.
“I spontaneously decided in March that I wanted to come to the U.S. Then Emily [Mansur] contacted me and made me a great offer that I couldn’t deny,” Skinner said.
While Skinner’s desire to come to the U.S. from Germany is what brought her to Hofstra, it was Appleton’s desire to eventually play overseas that brought her to the Long Island campus as well.
“I think a big part was actually the international students on the team. We only have four Americans on the team and then the rest are [from] all over the place,” Appleton said. “It’s a huge draw to me because I want to play overseas after college. Playing with the different cultures and the different personalities is something I was looking for.”
Yet despite their different backgrounds and aspirations, the impact that these two freshmen have had are more similar than anything as they continue to rack up greater stats and awards throughout the season.
The freshmen have combined for six Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Rookie of the Week Awards, with Skinner being awarded four and Appleton two. Skinner is second on the team in kills and digs, while Appleton leads the team in digs and stands second in assists.
Even though both girls have had terrific individual performances throughout the season, neither sees an individual moment as being the greatest of the season. Instead, a similar moment comes to mind when asked what stands out so far in their seasons.
“Last Sunday, the JMU game. We beat them in four and they were undefeated before that,” Appleton said. “That was so exciting. We all came together as a team and wanted it so bad.”
Skinner agreed, saying, “The game on Sunday against JMU. We were the underdog against them so no one really expected us to win.”
The success achieved by the freshmen did not come easy. Both players have had to work to adjust to the college game.
“It’s an adaptation I have to make. It is different than in Germany but I think it is pretty cool. I can’t complain,” Skinner said.
Appleton was blunt about her first year in college. “It is tough. I am not going to lie. You get pushed to your max physically and mentally everyday. You really have to come here and work. Mixing school and social life and volleyball, it’s tough, but it’s worth it for me.
Ultimately though, Appleton believes that the tough adjustments have made her a better player. “I looked at my old film and how I am now to how I was then is so much better. It is nice to see the improvement on video because you don’t always see it on the floor.”
With less than one month remaining in the regular season, the Pride will be looking to use their momentum to propel them through to the conference championship. For Appleton and Skinner, that’s the goal for the remainder of the season, along with a slightly bigger one, which would likely only come if they accomplished the first.
“Something we want to achieve and something we really think we can do this year is win the conference,” Appleton said. “Making it to the NCAA tournament would be the greatest thing ever. I am so excited and I really think we can do it.”
Skinner agreed. “I think a big goal for the season is getting first place in the conference and then going on to the NCAA tournament and doing a great job there.”
While their quest to a conference title and an NCAA tournament appearance is what drives these two players, their impressive stats are what is driving each player’s case for CAA Rookie of the Year.
Regardless of who wins the battle, with these two playing at such a high level, the future sure looks bright on the volleyball court for the Pride.
Image courtesy of Hofstra Athletics