Volleyball looks to senior class for potential CAA repeat
After winning the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) regular season and winning the CAA tournament in 2018, the Hofstra volleyball team has their work cut out for them in the 2019 season.
The Pride finished the 2018 season with a 25-8 overall record and a 13-3 conference record.
Because the Pride won the regular season last year, they will host the CAA tournament at the David S. Mack Physical Education Center this November, where the top six teams in the CAA will face off for the conference championship.
“Every year our goal is to make it back to the tournament, but having it home, I think even more,” said Hofstra head coach Emily Mansur.
This season the non-conference matches are stacked up against tough opponents like Penn State University, Duke University and the University of Oregon.
“The CAA teams are extremely competitive and because we have eight new players, some of them from outside the country, they have no idea how the NCAA works,” Mansur said. “I think it is pretty important for us to have a lot of competitive and tough matches. I really want to see how they respond mentally to failing and that's really going to dictate how the season is going to go.”
The Pride will play in three tournaments before hosting the Hofstra Invitational this September. The invitational will feature St. John’s University, Oregon, and Duke right before Hofstra starts CAA play.
After their final non-conference matchup against Duke, the Pride will begin conference play on the road for three games. The Pride will return home for their CAA home opener against Northeastern University on Oct. 9.
Last season, the Pride knocked Towson University out of the CAA tournament in the semifinals and beat the James Madison University Dukes for the CAA final, taking both matches to the fifth and final set to determine the winner. Both teams will enter this new season with their sights set on taking down Hofstra.
“The CAA this year is extremely balanced,” Mansur said. “Every single team in the CAA is pretty similar this year.”
Out of any team in the conference, Mansur believes that the University of Delaware Fightin’ Blue Hens are going to surprise everyone and may be the toughest competition for this upcoming season.
“Delaware has so many seniors this season and they have a really competitive group coming in. It’s [a team] that may surprise people but always JMU and Towson will be competitive,” Mansur said. “It is a really competitive conference and I think really anyone can take it this year.”
Even though the CAA conference is very competitive, Mansur believes her squad still has the talent to win it all this season.
After losing four key seniors last season, Mansur is looking for seniors Laura Masciullo and Luisa Sydlik, as well as sophomore Maddie Appleton, to all step up and lead this team.
“This is a learning year,” Mansur said. “It is a lot of responsibility for sure for a year like this, but it is exciting because we have a great group coming back and they are working really hard to ease into things.”
From the end of last season to the start of this season, both on and off the court, Mansur has seen these girls take a lot of responsibility and lead the team.
Last season, Masciullo reached a milestone, getting over 1,000 career kills and led the team with 466 kills and she added 68 blocks during the season. Sydlik was lead setter for the team, tallying 1468 assists over the season with 41 services aces. The 2018 season also saw then-newcomer libero Appleton all over the court, earning almost 500 digs and 32 services aces.
This season, Mansur knows she will be relying on them to step up.
“For sure they are going to have to step up big time for us to get to where we need to get,” she said. “I’m excited to see what happens but I think they are ready mentally; physically they will be ready.”
Mansur and her coaching staff cannot go in the gym and see what needs work on until August 10, 20 days before their opening match; but Mansur says that the recruits are getting used to her system in their open gym workouts, which are run by the student leaders of the team.
Mansur is excited to get into the gym with the eight new players joining the volleyball squad in 2019, with only seven returning players from their championship season last year.
“I’m looking forward to getting back to being a team and by November being the best. It is going to take a little time. We are going to have a lot of bumps in the beginning but it is okay because it is a part of the process,” Mansur said. “I'm excited to go through the ups and downs that this season is going to have but to finish in a really, really nice way.”
Image courtesy of Hofstra Athletics