The next time you step into the David S. Mack Physical Education Center for a volleyball match, you could be witnessing history.
The Hofstra Pride volleyball squad is having a great deal of success this year, thanks to freshman Laura Masciullo. Masciullo has a chance to become the first player since 1994 to lead the Pride in kills as a freshman.
Her emergence on the team has come at the perfect time for Hofstra.
This is due to the loss of Leticia Valente – one of the team’s top offensive threats – to injury just over a month ago. With Valente out for a good portion of time and Nanishka Perez facing her own struggles offensively, the Pride suddenly found itself with a lack of depth on the front line.
For Masciullo, it became her time to shine.
Masciullo, a freshman right side hitter from La Spezia, Italy, took control for Hofstra right away in Valente’s absence. In Hofstra’s first match without Valente, Masciullo tabbed a career-high 20 kills. Since then, Masciullo has led the Pride in kills in every match but one. She recently flew past senior Veronika Kostova for the team lead in the category.
It did not take long for Masciullo to adjust to her role as the go-to scorer and she certainly has not crumbled under the pressure.
The Italian is unquestionably the leader of the Pride’s offense. Setter Hannah Klemm seems happy to go to Masciullo in crucial situations. Even when she fails, the team has unwavering trust in her.
She is also essentially a lock for the CAA Rookie of the Year if she can continue her offensive pace. To take it one step further, it is possible that Hofstra volleyball is in store for another legendary career.
It is easy to understate just how outstanding Masciullo’s freshman season has been. The only players in the conference with more points than her are seniors.
She ranks in the conference’s top ten in points, kills and service aces.
Masciullo’s numbers are comparable to the best player in Hofstra volleyball history. In 2014, Kelsie Wills set the program record with 1,942 kills. She is often revered as the greatest volleyball player to call Hofstra University her home. She was a three-time CAA first team member and won the CAA Player of the Year award in her senior season.
Through 21 matches, Wills and Masciullo are almost even in kills, 248 and 250, respectively.
By the end of her freshman year, Wills had racked up 354 kills, 43 blocks and a .160 attack percentage. Should Masciullo continue her current pace, she would finish the season with 346 kills, 43 blocks and a .215 attack percentage.
Do not be surprised if the Italian surpasses those totals considering the team has been relying on her more frequently since Valente fell. It might be a stretch to extrapolate statistics from 21 matches to project a full career – maybe it seems like a leap of faith to suggest a freshman will be a historic icon in the sport.
But some of Masciullo’s greatest aspects as a player are not recorded on a stat sheet. She has a tremendous amount of mental strength. She never seems to get frustrated with herself for a bad play despite leading the team with 110 attacking errors. No matter how critical the error, Masciullo always snaps right back into focus.
Oftentimes she will follow a huge mistake with a forceful kill. Instead of getting down on herself after a mistake, she makes up for it. Masciullo is a leading presence on the court. She is always smiling and maintains a positive attitude even when the team is down. She is one of the first people on the court to support a crestfallen teammate.
Her maturity is far beyond her years, which makes it easy to see her continuing to improve her game as she gets older. The team has rallied around her in an impressive way.
Almost half of Masciullo’s kills this year have come in the third sets of matches or later. It is important to keep in mind that almost half of the team’s matches have not even gone past the third set, meaning Masciullo is piling up boatloads of kills in crunch time; the team has consistently gone to Masciullo in must-win situations. She certainly has not let her teammates down.
However, it is important to note that she is far from a perfect player. Her defensive skills are not nearly at the level of Wills. While Masciullo is a solid blocking presence for the team, she is only sixth on the team in total blocks. And although she’s played frequently on the back line, she ranks just fourth on the squad in digs and leads the team in receiving errors.
While her offensive game is unbelievably strong, her defensive skills need further honing for her to evolve into a more complete player.
Masciullo could be on her way to superstardom. At the very least, she is a vital component to a Hofstra Pride team hungry for postseason success.
Hofstra returns to action on Wednesday, welcoming the Northeastern Huskies to the Physical Education Center. With just six games remaining, the Pride needs to get rolling now heading into the CAA Tournament.
For now, we will just watch and see if this really is the beginning of the era of Masciullo.