Simon Riddiough hopes to have his Hofstra women’s team pointed in the right direction. (Photo courtesy of Hofstra Athletic Communications)
HEMPSTEAD, N.Y. – Hofstra University women’s head coach Simon Riddiough has posted as many winning seasons as he has years as head coach. The 2016 campaign was his 11th with the Pride finishing at 10-7-1.
With a solid corps of returners and a talented crop of newcomers, Riddiough will look to achieve even more this fall, including returning to the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.
Riddiough said the team’s 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.”
“Our goals haven’t changed,” he added. “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 2016, including All-CAA third-team selection Kristin Desmond. The Pride also boasts a strong backline, anchored by 2016 CAA All-Rookie selection Kelly Gerdes and 2017 Preseason All-CAA pick Madeline Anderson. And with eight new faces added to the mix, Hoftsra 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,” Riddiough said. “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, 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.
Riddough said that “Desmond leads by example. She’s a workhorse, and she quietly gets along with her business. 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 saw the return of Jenn Buoncore, 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,” Riddiough said. “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 and sophomores Maya Watkins, Brenda Quinn and Rachel Cardinal will bolster the team’s depth at forward after contributing valuable minutes off the bench last season.
Senior Ashley Batista also could come off the bench at nearly any position. “She’s a very versatile player,” Riddiough said. “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 also will 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,” Riddiough said. “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 2016 with an injury. Hofstra was 6-2 with Hulbert in the starting lineup, 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,” Riddiough said. “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.”
Juniors Chelsea Steigman and Jamie Delaney and freshman Cybele Laisney also will add to the team’s depth at midfield.
The Pride returns nearly its entire backline from a season ago, with the one notable loss being National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-Region Third-Team selection Emily Agudelo on the flank.
Junior Preseason All-CAA selection Madeline Anderson 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 extratime hero in a 2-1 victory over Fairleigh Dickinson.
“She’s the best defender in the league, but obviously I’m biased,” Riddiough said. “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, 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 play 1,636 minutes.
“Good maturity, intelligent on the ball, quick, aggressive,” Riddiough said. “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 and junior Brianna Doran – will compete for the two spots on the flanks.
“There’s good competition right now,” Riddiough said. “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 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,” Riddiough said.
Senior Jenna Borresen 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.”
The Pride’s 2017 schedule includes four teams that advanced to the 2016 NCAA Tournament and 11 that finished last season with a winning record.
“I’m excited for the challenge of our schedule this season,” Riddiough said. “It’s very well-balanced. The competitive level of our nonconference schedule will have us well prepared for conference play.”
Hofstra opens with four consecutive road games, beginning at Pittsburgh Friday. before traveling to Penn State for the third straight year Sunday. Penn State finished 26th in the RPI in 2016 and advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Hofstra heads to local rival Columbia Aug. 25. The Lions finished last season at 7-6-4, with one of their losses coming at the hands of the Pride. Hofstra concludes the road trip at Boston University Aug. 27. The Pride picked up its first win over the Terriers in Division I program history last season.
The Pride hosts reigning Big Sky champion Eastern Washington in the home opener Aug. 31, beginning a four-game homestand. The Eagles finished last season at 13-5-4 and earned the conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Yale makes the trip to Hempstead Sept. 4, followed by Fordham Sept. 8 and Monmouth on Sept. 10. The Rams went 10-5-5 last season, while the Hawks earned the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, finishing with a 14-5-2 record.
Hofstra goes back on the road Sept. 14, but won’t have far to go, travelling to neighboring foe Stony Brook. The Seawolves were 9-8-3 in 2016.
Colonial Athletic Association play begins Sept. 21 at Delaware, before Hofstra returns home to host conference opponents UNCW and Drexel Sept. 24 and 28, respectively. The Pride travels to William & Mary on Oct. 1 and to Towson Oct. 5.
James Madison comes to Hofstra Soccer Stadium Oct. 8, and the Pride makes the trip to reigning CAA champion Northeastern Oct. 12. The Huskies finished with the highest RPI in the conference at 57 and were narrowly edged, 1-0, by third-seeded Clemson in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
Hofstra will honor its seniors in the home finale against Elon Oct. 15, before closing the regular season at Charleston Oct. 22.
The CAA quarterfinals will be held Oct. 29. The regular-season champion will host the semifinals and championship Nov. 3 and 5, respectively.