By PJ Potter — SPORTS EDITOR
The unsung hero – the one who undeservingly slides under the radar as the difference-maker, given no chance to bask in the glory.
Jenn Buoncore, starting forward for the Hofstra women’s soccer team, fit the bill perfectly as the player unacknowledged for her tremendous contributions this season to help guide Hofstra to an undefeated 9-0 record in conference play.
“She was fantastic this year. A lot of what she did for this team didn’t get as noticed as it should have,” Hofstra head coach Simon Riddiough said. “She deserved more recognition.”
After taking a full year off to focus on academics, Buoncore found herself amongst the Top 10 in the CAA in points (14), goals (5) and assists (4) as a junior.
Despite the stellar season, Buoncore was left off of every All-CAA team.
However, she continued to play on another level that many were not aware of. In the CAA Championship match against Northeastern on Nov. 5, it was all tied up at 1-1 in the 32nd minute. Hofstra was granted a free kick on the left side. Monique Iannella took the set piece, firing into the box filled with a slew of black and white jerseys.
But, soaring above all was Buoncore, heading it top shelf to give the Pride the eventual championship-winner, a 2-1 final.
“I had a feeling. I knew that between my defender and me, I was winning that individual battle and whether the ball went in the back of the net – that was destiny. When I turned and saw the ball in the back of the net, I was ecstatic. It was an amazing feeling,” Buoncore said.
Her undetected impact goes deeper than just the stat sheets, too.
Standing at 5-feet-11-inches, Buoncore has no fear on 50-50 balls punted high toward midfield from goal kicks, winning nearly every descending ball to settle Hofstra’s possession offensively or overturn it from the opposition.
“She is one of the better players in the air on our team and wins almost all headers in her area, which is a huge relief for the backline when trying to deal with long balls,” CAA Defensive Player of the Year Madeline Anderson said.
With a seamless ability to pass headers in every direction, her success on these plays erases much of the burden off the board for Hofstra’s defense, a unit that allowed just 0.67 goals per contest.
“Defense starts with pressure from the offense and her hard work and pressure on the ball makes it less likely for there to be a lot of pressure on the rest of the team, especially the back four,” Anderson said.
What makes Buoncore an even more valuable – and unnoticed – asset to the roster is her acceptance of not having one specific role. She is not the go-to scorer. She is not the one anchoring the defense. She is, though, someone that can take on those responsibilities when needed.
“My role changes with each opponent and depends on the match-ups,” Buoncore said.
In one match, she’ll lean more towards the offensive end along the sidelines to provide crosses in the box or steal the presence inside on corners and free kicks. In another, she will play heavier on defense, guarding the 18-yard box and allowing no entry, especially in one-on-one matchups.
However, in most matches, she does both.
“No one matches Jenn’s height and her physical dominance in the box. She is a major threat to opposing teams,” CAA Player of the Year Kristin Desmond said.
In a squad filled with All-CAA first and second teamers, it’s easy to point fingers and explain why the Hofstra women’s soccer team was unstoppable in 2017. However, looking back, one wonders where the Pride would have finished if Jenn Buoncore did not don the Hofstra blue and gold this season.