Women's basketball hopes new coach can lead them to success
The Hofstra Pride women’s basketball team was ranked last in this year’s Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA) preseason poll, but after a disappointing season last year, the team has hired a new coach in Danielle Santos Atkinson and revamped the roster. Santos Atkinson, redshirt sophomore Jaylen Hines and redshirt junior Ana Hernandez Gil are optimistic about the upcoming 2019-2020 season.
Santos Atkinson comes in drawing experience from some of the best programs in the nation. She has worked for Florida State University, the University of Kentucky and most recently served as the associate head coach for the University of Pittsburgh.
“I have been able to pull [experience] from everywhere I’ve been,” Santos Atkinson said. “Basketball is basketball, whether it’s at the high-major level or mid-major level. Some of the things we were able to do at the high level [are what] we want to be able to pull from.”
The Pride have a hustle-oriented mentality heading into this season, and Hines says she’s up for the challenge. The forward is ready for the upcoming season and dialed in on where the team needs to improve.
“[We need to] overall just be a stronger team mentally and physically,” Hines said.
The Maryland native has already seen her fair share of difficult CAA competition, but she does not want to see it affect the team’s overall focus or consistency in how they prepare.
“We prepare the same way for every team, we practice the same way whether the team is ranked or not,” Hines said. “We need to come in with the same mentality to compete, no matter who it is.”
Hernandez Gil agreed with Hines’ sentiment and emphasized that a lot of the simple things need to be worked on. She spoke about what she hopes to see from the team. “Having some effort every single day, competing in practice and getting better,” she said.
Hernandez Gil was a perimeter threat for the Pride last season, scoring a team-high 74 three-pointers. But the guard is still not satisfied, looking to improve and make an impact any way she can heading into her redshirt junior season.
“I want to lead the team as much as I can on the court and off the court,” Hernandez Gil said. “As well as help the new freshmen and transfers transition into the team too.”
One of the most respected defensive players on the team is Finnish senior Marianne Kalin, who led the team with 26 blocks last season. But Santos Atkinson hopes to see her take the next step and grow her game offensively in her final year.
“[Kalin] is going to have an impact for us on both ends of the court. Defensively she does a good job and she’s mobile,” Santos Atkinson said. “She needs to expand her game to be an offensive threat for us as well, whether that’s being able to shoot and have a face up part of her game or down low.”
Senior Petja Krupenko is also expected to have a big impact this season. Last year, she averaged 2.2 points, 0.4 rebounds and 0.5 assists on 9.1 minutes per game. Although her numbers may not catch the eye, Santos Atkinson recognizes her value nonetheless.
“She knows how to lead and has the ability to put people in the right places,” Santos Atkinson said.
The Pride has welcomed in two true freshmen this season, both of whom look to make an immediate impact on the team.
The first is Piper Doo, a native of Ontario and a two-time team MVP of Southwest Academy.
The other is Sorelle Ineza, a native of Quebec, who led her former team of Dawson College to a silver medal in the state championship and the Canadian national championship.
“Both freshmen have come in [and already] made an impact,” Hines said. “They’re freshmen so they are making freshman mistakes, but they are willing to learn and willing to work hard. That’s really all you can ask from them.”
Santos Atkinson spoke highly of Ineza in particular, who has assumed a large role on the team already.
“Ineza has really come in and stepped up with [E’Lexus] Davis being out,” Santos Atkinson said. “She has really impressed and has been prepared to play under the responsibility we’ve given her.”
This comes as a result of Davis rehabbing an injury sustained last season. Davis played a large role on the team prior to the injury, starting in 16 games and averaging 22.8 minutes per game. The guard had 4.9 points, 3.0 rebounds and 2.1 assists during that stretch. Hernandez Gil identified that she has still found ways to contribute in spite of the injury.
“[Davis] is working hard every day in rehab and off the court, when she’s sidelined she’s calling out telling us what to do. She really pushes [herself] every day to be better,” Hernandez Gil said.
After starting the season with two games on the road, the Pride will have their first home game of the season against Long Island rival Stony Brook University. This will be Santos Atkinson’s first game as head coach at the David S. Mack Sports and Exhibition Complex, and she cannot wait for the team to get out and play in front of Hofstra fans.
“I think it’s great. Why would you want anything else but to be able to come in and play your first game against such a rival team?” Santos Atkinson said. “It’s really exciting and we’ll have a couple road games before that to really get our feet wet and get in a groove.”
The team has a lot to improve on with an overall record of 11-22 and a ninth place finish in the CAA last season. But Santos Atkinson has both demanding and optimistic expectations for every single athlete on the team heading into the year.
“We are hoping to be our best selves,” Santos Atkinson said. “At the end of the year if we have reached our maximum potential, from day one to the last day, and shown growth, that would be a success for us.”
Image courtesy of Hofstra Athletics