On Saturday night,Oct. 27, the Hofstra men’s soccer team – needing a win to secure a third seed while keeping hopes of a second seed and a bye in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) tournament alive – delivered, defeating Charleston 2-0 in a game that wasn’t as close as the final score indicates.
“There were tough conditions, but I thought we had a great first half ... [We] played with lots of energy, had two good goals and were in good control of the game,” said head coach Richard Nuttall. “I’m a little bit disappointed in the second half that we didn’t really put the game away and press our abilities on to them, but it was a great workman-like performance. I’m really pleased. It gave us a small chance to be second, but at the very least, it cements us in third place in the conference, and that’s what we wanted to do at the beginning of the day, so I’m very happy about that.”
On this cold, rainy and windy night, the Pride were able to send their seniors off right in the final home game of their collegiate careers. After both teams spent the first five to 10 minutes of the game getting used to the conditions, Hofstra got on the board at 21:57 when Luke Brown put home a rifle of a cross into the bottom right corner for his 11th point of the season. Not 10 minutes later, the Pride would add on, this time with Storm Strongin executing two fabulous moves before putting home a short side goal 29 minutes into the game. This proved to be all that would be needed.
“[The slippery surface] takes a bit of getting used to. I thought the first goal was well made and quite well crafted. [I] don’t think any keeper would’ve stopped it. [Brown] completely thumped the ball in, and I’m proud of that. The second one was a little bit of magic in the box with a left footed shot that got it in,” Nuttall said.
The game’s conditions made it very difficult on both sides to connect passes, maintain pressure and create quality scoring chances. Even so, Hofstra’s defense was everywhere, eliminating any hope that Charleston had at trying to get back into the game. In particular, Sean Nealis and George O’Malley did a great job staying poised and in control in the back end while leading the defensive charge.
“I give credit to the whole team as a unit; from [Matthew] Vowinkel up front all the way back,” Nuttall said. “Sean Nealis and George O’Malley were a rock again. They’ve been unbelievable. In my opinion, Sean’s the best real defender in the conference. He just wins everything. He’s just an absolute stud there. We work hard, and that’s our identity. We spoke before the game, about our identity, which is good ol’ hard work, work as a team and then when we win the ball, try and keep it and score.”
Having secured a minimum of third seed in wake of the CAA tournament, Hofstra’s postseason status isn’t in question. What’s at stake rather, is a possible second seed, which could reward them with a bye in the tournaments first round.
“Sometimes you want to keep a rhythm. Injury wise, we’re okay at the moment. It wouldn’t be a bad thing, playing another game,” Nuttall said, “but then you’ve [got] to win that game, and every team in this conference can beat you. And we’ve got a chance to play another game on our beautiful home soccer field.”
Hofstra will finish out their regular season schedule Tuesday, Oct. 30, on the road against Columbia University and await their standing as they prepare for the CAA championship.