The Hofstra field hockey team has navigated an absolute minefield of a schedule to become arguably the hottest team on campus this fall.
Currently, the Pride sits at 9-5, with a 1-1 record early in CAA competition. Most recently, Hofstra found itself on the losing end against the Blue Hens of the University of Delaware, the ninth-ranked team in the nation.
9-5 may not seem like a record that constitutes a team on fire, but consider this: Hofstra has won seven of its last eight contests, and those seven wins were consecutive before the loss to Delaware.
“I think the season is going great,” said Hofstra head coach Kathy De Angelis. “I’ve been very excited about our competitiveness. We’ve had a very strong schedule early on.”
To call the Pride’s early-season schedule strong would be a massive understatement. Hofstra jumped right in to the deep end to start this season, opening up the 2016 campaign with a perennial field hockey powerhouse in the University of Albany.
The Great Danes were ranked ninth in the nation heading into that matchup, a matchup that Hofstra ended up losing by 4-0.
The teams placed in front of Hofstra only got tougher after the opener, as the Pride took on teams like the University of Maine and Syracuse University.
Maine is another program that regularly finds itself in the upper echelon of Division One field hockey. Syracuse was the second-ranked team in the nation, as well as the defending national champion.
Both of those contests resulted in defeat for the Pride. In fact, Hofstra came out of that game with Syracuse with a 2-4 record. On paper, the Pride’s prospects of a championship were bleak.
But success isn’t measured on paper. This team has weathered the early-season storm with tremendous patience, and now finds itself right back in the thick of things after a seven-game winning streak.
“I really, truly believe that scheduling is one of the most important things that a program does,” De Angelis said. “We were really fortunate to get teams like Albany, Syracuse and Maine.”
The strong scheduling is something that this team has become used to over the years. By scheduling so strongly in the early part of the season, the Pride has hit its stride at the right moment, as the all-important CAA season begins.
“When you’re playing at that level, it makes you successful. You have to step up to the challenge,” De Angelis said.
Of course, it helps when you have one of the best players to ever step onto the turf at the Hofstra Field Hockey Stadium leading the way.
Fans of this team have become accustomed to watching Claudia Marin Samper dazzle on offense for years and this season has been no exception.
The senior from Spain is currently tied for second in the CAA with 13 goals and she leads the conference in assists, with nine.
The assist she picked up in Sunday’s game against Delaware moved her into sole possession of first place all-time in career assists here at Hofstra, with 35.
She edged out Genna Kovar for the top spot on the career assists list, and with six games left this season, she has a very realistic chance of surpassing Kovar’s other school records in goals and total points as well.
Marin Samper needs just 10 more points to top Kovar’s mark of 148 total points, and just six more goals to top Kovar’s mark of 57 goals in her illustrious career.
“Having a player of that caliber is always a dream,” De Angelis said. “One thing about Claudia is she does have a very strong expectation of herself. She puts the pressure on herself, we don’t even need to do that.”
Marin Samper has been the centerpiece of the Hofstra offense this season, but she is far from the only contributor up front for the Pride.
Another veteran making an impact this season is Stella Schoen, a senior forward who, like Marin Samper, hails from overseas, in Germany.
Schoen has 10 goals and six assists so far this season, second on the team, behind Marin Samper in both categories.
Madison Sauve has chipped in five goals and four assists. In addition to these three, seven other players have also found the back of the net for the Pride this season.
“We don’t have just one weapon, we have a number of weapons,” De Angelis said. “When you have that, defenses can’t just center around one player.”
On the other side of the field, the Hofstra defense has been an equally crucial component to the Pride’s success this season.
In what has become a theme with the fall sports teams here at Hofstra this year, De Angelis has employed a platoon system for the majority of the season, sending Lauren Saltus out to play goalie the first half, before recalling her in favor of Carys Swan in the second half.
It appears that Saltus has won the goalie battle after starting and playing buzzer-to-buzzer in Hofstra’s last three games, turning in some stellar performances in the cage.
The loss to Delaware on Sunday may have snapped the Pride’s win streak, but it certainly hasn’t put a halt to the team’s momentum. This team is still firing on all cylinders as CAA play gets into full swing.
Next up for the Pride is a date with the Northeastern Huskies, a team still looking for its first conference victory of the year.
It may still be too early to tell, but at a glance, this Hofstra field hockey team certainly has the ability – and the resume – to bring home the title this year.