By Anders Jorstad — STAFF WRITER
The Hofstra women’s soccer squad played its most complete game of the season with a 4-0 victory over Eastern Washington in the home opener.
It was the first-ever meeting between the two squads. The Eagles had never faced a CAA foe nor had they ever traveled to New York to play. The 2016 Big Sky champions returned all but two starters, including two-time Big Sky Offensive Player of the Year, Chloe Williams.
The Pride was coming off a strong weekend against Columbia and Boston University, but was still waiting for the offense to emerge.
Hofstra started off strong. Noriana Radwan earned a corner kick just a minute and a half into the game. Intending a pass for forward Kristin Desmond, Radwan’s cross sailed into the goal untouched for her first score of the season.
“You don’t see that very often,” Hofstra head coach Simon Riddiough said of the first goal. “I think getting that goal in the first minute settled us while playing at home in the home opener, so I’m pretty happy with that.”
Hofstra locked down defensively after that, playing most of the first half on the defensive side of the field. Eastern Washington took 14 shots in the first frame compared to just five for the Pride, but the Eagles had just one shot on goal during that span.
Hofstra waited in the wings for an opportunity to strike again. In the 18th minute, Jenn Buoncore and Emily Hulbert started a breakaway. Buoncore headed a perfect pass to Hulbert for a one-on-one with Eagles goalie Kelsee Winston. Hulbert went left and Winston guessed right as the ball whizzed by her for the Pride’s second score.
Hofstra rapidly substituted players in search of fresh legs for a worn-down defense. Coming off the bench, Lucy Shepherd broke away from the pack in the 36th minute and won a one-on-one with Winston to put Hofstra up 3-0. It was the first goal of her Hofstra career.
The Pride went into the locker room with that surprising early advantage.
“To be honest, we were fortunate to be winning 3-0 at halftime,” said Riddiough. “They were very hard to break down and fortunately we were very clinical today. You think when you’re up 2-0 that you can start to control the game, but we couldn’t. This Eastern Washington team, it’s very difficult to control them. We couldn’t do that in a way we normally could up 2-0.”
The Pride turned the Eagles on their heels in the second half, controlling the ball more in the offensive zone. Although the blue and gold only earned one score in the second half — Sabrina Bryan’s second goal of the campaign — they were able to settle down and take pressure off the defense. Hofstra held Eastern Washington to just two shots in the second frame.
Thanks to a strong effort in the second half, Hofstra held the clean sheet and won 4-0.
Riddiough praised the team’s defensive effort after the contest.
“I thought Maddie Anderson was big time. Katie Gerdes was fantastic. Emily Hulbert, when we moved her to defensive midfield, too. Those three were by far our best players and really deserved getting the clean sheet today.”
Ashley Wilson had her second six-save win of the season. The goalkeeper got to rest a little in the waning minutes as Jenna Borresen held down the fort for the final 12 minutes of the contest.
Hofstra moves to 2-2-1 with the win and will face Yale on Labor Day for the second of a four-game home stand.
“[Yale] beat UConn away [this year],” said Riddiough. “Not many teams beat UConn at Storrs. The last couple of years that we’ve played them, they’ve been super talented and extremely well-coached. I think in 2014 we lost to them 2-1, and I think that held us out of an at-large bid in the NCAAs. We’re just going to have to show the same gumption we showed in this game.”