The following season preview of Hofstra University’s Women’s Soccer Team was written by Amanda Ghysel, senior assistant director of Athletic Communications at Hofstra.
With a solid corps of returners and a talented crop of newcomers, Simon Riddiough, head coach of Hofstra’s Women’s Soccer Team, will look to achieve even more in 2017, including returning to the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.
“[Our goals] are the same every year. We need to be in the CAA playoffs to give ourselves a chance to compete and ideally make the NCAAs,” said Riddiough. “Our goals haven’t changed. Even after last year’s hiccup, we still have the same aspirations, and we expect the same from the team.”
Hofstra returns three of its top four goal-scorers from a season ago, including All-CAA Third-Team pick Kristin Desmond (East Northport). The Pride also boasts a strong backline, anchored by 2016 CAA All-Rookie selection Kelly Gerdes (Wantagh) and 2017 Preseason All-CAA pick Madeline Anderson (Westbury). And with eight new faces added to the mix, Hofstra hopes to take care of some unfinished business in 2017.
“From a coaching perspective, we’re always reevaluating what we want to do, we’re always looking to find different ways to do things,” said Riddiough. “I think this year we’ve got a lot of depth, where we’re going to probably change our coaching philosophy slightly, and I think that’s probably going to help in the long run.”
Offensively, the Pride will be tasked with replacing the production of Jill Mulholland (Levittown), who graduated as one of the most prolific goal-scorers in program history. But senior Desmond is primed to lead the charge after finishing second on the team with six goals and two assists last season. Her veteran status will lend to her leadership role, and she brings versatility in her ability to slot into the midfield or on the backline as well.
“[Desmond] leads by example. She’s a workhorse, and she quietly gets along with her business,” said Riddiough, who will be looking for Desmond to fill up the stat sheet this season. “I think she’s putting a bit more effort into becoming more vocal and becoming the leader she can be because she’s one of our best players.”
The Pride also sees the return of Jenn Buoncore (Kings Park), who took last season off to focus on academics. As a freshman, Buoncore was named to the CAA All-Rookie Team after posting two goals and five assists.
“It’s fantastic to have Jenn back,” said Riddiough. “I think having her now shows how much we missed her last year. She’s come back, she’s fitter than she’s ever been, and she’s playing really well, so we’re excited. She’s adding a lot of different qualities to our team. She’s a threat in a lot of different ways, and I think she’s going to do very well this year.”
Junior Sabrina Barton (Northport) and sophomores Maya Watkins, Brenda Quinn (Hicksville) and Rachel Cardinal will bolster the team’s depth at forward after contributing valuable minutes off the bench last season.
In addition, senior Ashley Batista could come off the bench at nearly any position. “She’s a very versatile player,” said Riddiough. “Came in in great shape, great kid, great attitude, good leadership, very professional in the way she conducts herself. She’s shown that she’s not going to let you down when she does play.”
Newcomers Sabrina Bryan and Lucy Shepherd will also compete for time up front. Coming out of the Pittsburgh area, Bryan has an eye for the net as the Canon McMillan High School all-time leading goal scorer. Shepherd, meanwhile, comes from England with an impressive resume, including time with Aston Villa Ladies FC and the English Youth National Team.
“We’ve got a lot of depth at the forward position,” said Riddiough. “It gives us a lot of different options to attack different teams.”
The Pride will gain more than it lost in the midfield, especially with senior Emily Hulbert poised to return to anchor the central midfield after missing much of last season with an injury. Hofstra was 6-2 with Hulbert in the starting lineup a season ago, with one of those blemishes coming at the hands of No. 2 Penn State.
“Emily was a huge part of what we did defensively last year when she did play,” said Riddiough of Hulbert. “She’s the prototypical two-way player, and she’s extremely influential for us, and we’re excited to have her for a full year.”
Classmate Noriana Radwan, who had a breakout season offensively in 2016, finishing tied for second on the team with six goals, could see time in the center or on the left side.
Of Radwan’s 2016, Riddiough noted, “We couldn’t have asked for better statistics from that position,” adding, “She’s going to be a senior as well so she’s going to have a big role this season.”
Freshman Lucy Porter, a teammate of Shepherd’s with Aston Villa, is also poised to make an impact on the midfield right away. Riddiough said, “Lucy’s been fantastic. Good athletically, good technically, good intelligence.”
The Pride returns nearly its entire backline from a season ago, with the one notable loss being NSCAA All-Region Third-Team selection Emily Agudelo (Long Beach) on the flank.
Junior Preseason All-CAA selection Madeline Anderson (Westbury) will continue to pair her strong defending with her ability to create offense from the back from the central defender position. Anderson finished with two goals and an assist last season, including playing the overtime hero in a 2-1 win over Fairleigh Dickinson.
“She’s the best defender in the league, but obviously I’m biased,” said Riddiough of Anderson. “Very rarely gets beat one-on-one, tremendous defender, aggressive. We’re expecting big things from her this year, and I think she’s ready to step it to that next level.”
In the latter part of the 2016 season, Anderson teamed up with Kelly Gerdes (Wantagh), now a senior, in the center. Gerdes, who was named to the CAA All-Rookie Team last year after missing her first two seasons with injuries, was solid in her debut campaign, leaving the field just twice to rack up 1,636 minutes.
“Good maturity, intelligent on the ball, quick, aggressive,” Riddiough said of Gerdes. “Towards the end of the season, that (Gerdes and Anderson) was our starting center back position, and we went 4-1 in the last five games, so if we can keep them together, I think it strengthens what we’ve got going on.”
Five remaining players – Texas transfer Monique Iannella, sophomore newcomer Bella Richards, freshman Jordan Littleboy and returners senior Katie Gerdes (Wantagh) and junior Brianna Doran (Lindenhurst) — will compete for the two spots on the flanks.
“There’s good competition right now,” said Riddiough. “Katie Gerdes has played well, she had a good spring. Monique’s been one of our best players in preseason. Bella’s been playing well and so has Brianna Doran. So we’ve got good competition, good depth in pretty much every position.”
Senior Rhian Cleverly also returns her vocal leadership and could compete for time on the backline or in a defensive midfield role.
After splitting time between two goalkeepers for most of last season, Hofstra loses half of its goalkeeping tandem with the graduation of Friederike Mehring. But redshirt-junior Ashley Wilson (Glen Cove) gained a lot of playing experience serving most frequently as the Pride’s first-half keeper last season. Wilson finished 2016 with 34 saves, a .723 save percentage and 1.53 goals-against average in 765 minutes, and is primed to hold on to the top spot this year.
“She’s looking fit, she’s confident, we’re expecting big things from her,” said Riddiough of Wilson.
Senior Jenna Borresen (East Meadow) and Coastal Carolina transfer Sabrina Painter will be capable options at backup. “Jenna has stepped up her game,” said Riddiough. “She’s working hard and trying to get better and better.”