Volleyball to open conference play next weekend
“Every weekend that we play is a championship game. Every weekend we play is as important as the championship,” said Laura Masciullo, a star Hofstra volleyball player and the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Preseason Player of the Year. as conference play inches closer. For a team that’s been on the cusp, having finished anywhere from third to fifth place in each of the past five years, might this be the year they can finally get over the top?
Having improved from No. 5 to No.1 in the CAA in assists is one of quite a few signals that things are pointing up – that the Hofstra Pride are indeed headed in the right direction, and fast. Not only have the Pride increased their assists to the top of their conference, but they are now, unlike last year, top three in the CAA in both hitting percentage and opponent hitting percentage, as well as blocks and opponent blocks. Here’s what that means: The 2018 Hofstra Pride volleyball team is near the top of their conference and will almost assuredly be competing for a conference title in this upcoming season.
However, despite things looking up, there is a lot of work to be done, something both Masciullo and head coach Emily Mansur acknowledged.
“I think from last year, one of the main things that we learned is how resilient [we] are.” Mansur said. “We were down in the quarterfinals zero to two and we were able to [flip] the switch, and we also learned how inconsistent we are, which is something we really need to work to improve.”
Just like her coach, Masciullo knows a lot can be learned from last year’s third-place finish.
“I think that last year we learned a lot from our mistakes,” Masciullo said. “I think we learned that we need to be a team in order to win and be successful. Everyone is giving something, everyone is working on themselves; but at the same time, they are still working on bringing everything that they can to the team.”
Among Hofstra’s chief competition are Towson University and James Madison University (JMU), both of which finished ahead of Hofstra in the standings in each of the last three years. James Madison in particular has given Hofstra trouble in the past, as the Pride have beaten the Dukes just once in the last three years, a time period which included two tough five-set losses last year. In fact, the Pride have lost five of their last six matches against their rival, and they have won just four of their last twelve against James Madison dating back to 2013. Masciullo even admitted that certain games are spicier than others. “Of course, there are matches that touch us a little more than others … like [JMU and] Charleston,” Masciullo said.
Freshmen Aisha Skinner and Maddie Appleton are two other signs that the Pride are in for an improved season. Thus far, they seem to be filling the void that last year’s seniors left behind. Mansur was especially complimentary of the young talents.
“They stepped in ready to go,” Mansur said. “Maddie has been competing for the libero position and, as of today, she’s the starting libero and she’s really taking charge of the back row. Aisha Skinner’s doing that on the front row. [She and Masciullo] have been the main scorers for us.”
Masciullo echoed her coach’s praise of the young duo.
“They’re great additions to this team,” Masciullo said. “They are working extremely hard, they are already a great part of this program, they really embrace our values and the way that we work in this program.”
Masciullo’s mindset going into conference play is simple: “We’re ready to go for the W,” she said. “We’re definitely ready to go for the W.”
Photo courtesy of Hofstra Athletics