Volleyball takes down St. John's in thrilling home opener
The Hofstra Pride volleyball team came out on top over St. John’s University in a grueling, five-set match in front of a loud crowd in their home opener at the David S. Mack Physical Education Center on Tuesday, Sept. 10.
The theme of the match was wondering which team would budge first, the biggest determining factor being the Hofstra crowd coming out to support. The first home match of the season against another local rival was filled with emotion and high energy levels.
"We are so thankful for all of them to be here, for all the fans to be here, because that's extra energy and that's an extra player on our side and that's so important. I hope we made everyone proud and they want to come out to watch us again," said Hofstra head coach Emily Mansur.
The Pride went down early, dropping the first set before winning the next two and eventually closing out the victory in a decisive fifth set, with set scores of 18-25, 28-26, 25-22, 21-25 and 15-11.
Laura Masciullo once again put on a stellar performance, racking up 26 kills for the second straight match. This moved her into fifth place all-time in career kills at Hofstra, with 1,422.
Hofstra looked nearly defeated after losing the first set and trailing 21-24 in the second set. The Pride forced overtime with four straight points, starting with a kill from Masciullo and back-to-back block assists from freshman Luz Divina Nuñez Sierra and junior Dubravka Krakovic, who anchored the Pride defense in a strong defensive showing, performing well in clutch situations.
“We’ve been talking so much about blocking and [Krakovic & Nuñez Sierra] are such a big presence, so it was really nice to see them take charge and have a great match tonight,” Mansur said.
Nuñez Sierra recorded 11 blocks to go along with 15 kills, both season-highs in her first career double-double. Krakovic led the team with 12 blocks.
Both teams spent a majority of the third set trading points back and forth, neither one holding a lead greater than three at any point in the stanza. The Pride executed when it mattered most, taking the final three points in the set as Nuñez Sierra’s kill and block gave the Pride set point. Krakovic’s service ace sealed the set and gave Hofstra a 2-1 advantage.
St. John’s did not go down easily, keeping up with the Pride and pushing them to their limits. Rachele Rastelli and Klara Mikelova had 14 kills each, while Efrosini Alexakou had a team-high 16 kills in a balanced attack that responded any time Hofstra began to swing the momentum in their direction.
“This is a great team we played against, and it was nice to be successful and to be able to come out with the win tonight,” Mansur said.
The Red Storm regrouped after dropping two straight sets, going on a 7-0 run to pull ahead 14-8 in the fourth set. The Pride fought hard to bring the deficit to three, almost forcing another overtime, but St. John’s held on to force a final set.
The fifth set forced both teams to continue battling, refusing to let up or give an inch to their opponent in a match with 21 lead changes. The Pride would again step up late, trailing 11-10 before Masciulo’s 26th kill of the match sparked a 5-0 run that once again ended with Nuñez Sierra and Krakovic coming up with huge back-to-back blocks, securing the Hofstra victory.
With the win, Hofstra is now 10-9 against St. John’s and 4-3 this season. The Red Storm falls to 4-4 with Tuesday’s loss.
The Pride looks to build off this win when they take on Dartmouth University in their first match at the Dartmouth invitational on Friday, Sept. 12, at 6:30 p.m.
Photo Courtesy of Hofstra Athletics