The Hofstra men’s lacrosse team heads into the CAA playoffs coming off one of their best regular seasons in team history, and senior Josh Byrne is the biggest reason why.
The Tewaarton Award finalist captained the Pride to a school-record 10-0 start before finishing the season 11-2 – putting up team highs in goals and assists with 36 and 24, respectively.
Hofstra ranked as high as second in the nation at one point during the season and is now ranked 11th following the conclusion of the regular season.
The Canadian attackman transferred to Hofstra in his junior year after two years at Nassau Community College. Before transferring, Byrne won the NJCAA Attackmen of the Year Award, posting a remarkable 76 goals and 30 assists in only 12 games.
Byrne is now continuing to put up stats for one of the best teams in the nation, but he defers credit to the play of his teammates.
“There’s really so many ways that we can beat a team on offense,” Byrne said. “Dylan Alderman and Alex Moeser, they don’t really get recognition much, but they do a great job of setting up the attack and putting us in good positions to score.
“We have so many players who can score, like Ryan Tierney, Brendan Kavanagh, Jimmy Yanes. If you try to double one of us, someone else steps up.”
Byrne himself is the one who draws most of the double teams that he was talking about.
Typically, defenders cannot handle him one-on-one and need help defending whenever he drives them into the box.
After drawing the double, he then looks for the open man, who is often camped at the top of the box ready to whip a shot or whipping around the crease. His teammates feast on the open looks he creates.
Even when he is not scoring well, Byrne affects the game in ways that do not show up on a stat sheet. With a simple head fake or stick fake, Byrne can create open lanes to the cage for himself and his teammates.
His stick fake is one of the most impressive in the NCAA and routinely fools multiple defenders. Though Byrne is tall for an attackman, he says he has the game of a shorter player.
“I was always short until late in high school, so I had to have the best stick skills,” he said. “I hit a growth spurt and then I really started to get good.”
Byrne is now 6-foot-3, 200 pounds and is expected to go in the top five of this year’s Major League Lacrosse draft.
Despite his draft status, Byrne is not looking past this season.
“Being on the Tewaarton Award list is cool and the chance to be drafted is awesome, but I’m really just focused on winning a CAA championship,” he said.
Hofstra’s two losses this season have come by only three goals. The Pride outscored its opponents 151-110 this year despite being slightly outshot (437-433).
The Pride’s two losses in its last three games definitely stung, but there are lessons to be learned in each of those losses, particularly in the 13-12 loss against a middling Drexel team.
Hofstra led 9-2 at halftime over Drexel and was seemingly on their way to an 11-0 start to the season before crumbling in the second half.
With a seemingly insurmountable lead, the Pride took its foot off the gas, hoping to simply coast to a victory.
Hofstra was outscored 7-1 in the fourth quarter and could never regain any semblance of momentum.
“It was just the perfect storm. Everything had to go wrong for us to lose by one goal, and we have ourselves to blame,” Byrne said. “We learned from it, watched a lot of film on it and I feel like it will make us better in the long run.”
Hofstra will take on UMass in the semifinals of the CAA Tournament on Thursday night, in a game that could have major implications regarding the Pride’s chance at an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament later this month.
Despite the loss, the senior attackman has high hopes for the season. He even suggested that the Hofstra team can contend for a national championship.
“I don’t think it’s ever been done before at Hofstra,” Byrne said. “We want to put this team on the map and really let the rest of the world know that we aren’t just some guys from the turnpike. We want to show the world that we got some talent, we got some skill and we are going to work hard to prove we are the best.”