After a down year last season that saw the Hofstra men’s lacrosse team fail to make the CAA tournament, the Pride are back in the postseason after a 9-5 season, posting a 3-2 mark in conference play, good enough for the third seed in this season’s CAA tourney.
The Pride will be matched up with the Fairfield Stags in the second of Thursday’s two semifinal matchups. Top seed Towson will take on Drexel in the first matchup at 4 p.m., before the Pride and the Stags clash at 7 p.m.
These two teams met to kick off the CAA season back in April, with Fairfield narrowly squeaking out a 9-8 victory over the Pride, thanks to a few costly penalties at the end of the game. Colin Burke, the Stags’ leading scorer, netted three second-half goals, including two in a row late in the fourth quarter to give Fairfield the lead for good.
Since that loss, the Pride has rebounded nicely, cleaning up some of those costly penalty minutes and winning three of their last four contests to lock up the third seed. The Pride also took home a number of CAA awards on Wednesday, naming seven players to the All-CAA first and second teams, while Finn Sullivan brought home the CAA Defensive Player of the Year award.
In order to advance to the CAA championship, advancing one step closer to winning the title and advancing to the NCAA tournament, the Pride will have to play a cleaner game than it did the last time this team took on Fairfield.
Those costly penalties late in the game gave the Stags multiple man-up opportunities, and Fairfield would not hesitate to capitalize on them, coming from behind to secure the victory in one of the Pride’s lowest-scoring games this season.
The Pride’s margin for success hinges largely on the ability of its offense to score goals. Hofstra comes into the CAA tourney with a four-headed attack that has proven difficult for opposing defenses to stifle. With four players (Josh Byrne, Korey Hendrickson, Brian von Bargen and Sam Llinares) each scoring over 25 goals this year, it’s been a nightmare for opponents to try and bottle up all of these guys.
But Fairfield was one of the teams to do just that, keeping the Pride under 10 goals, one of only five teams to do that this season.
When the Pride are held under 10 goals, they are just 1-5 this season. That lone win came over a juggernaut Ohio State team, so it’s a big exception to the rule, but for the most part, this team needs to get support from its offense in order to have any measure to success. They’re not built to win the low-scoring defensive battles, they need to be scoring double-digit goals in order to knock off opponents.
Another huge factor in Thursday’s contest will be the matchup between Sullivan and Burke, on Hofstra’s end of the field. Sullivan will look to lock down the CAA’s top scorer, much like he did for most of the first meeting between these teams.
Unfortunately, as Burke started to get free in the second half of that game, the goals started to pile up. Sullivan and the rest of his unit need to keep him in check, or this one might get out of hand early.
This season, Hofstra holds victories over powerhouses like North Carolina, Princeton, and Ohio State. But its most important task still lies ahead of it, in the form of the Fairfield Stags. Only time – and a dynamic offense – will tell if Hofstra will be heading home early, or heading back to the CAA title game.