By John Napolitano — STAFF WRITER
One year removed from a dominant 7-1 conference record, the Hofstra Pride is no longer king atop the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) jungle; however, with a 3-1-4 in-conference record in 2017, the fourth-seeded Pride is primed, once again, for a tournament berth.
Hofstra’s championship chase begins on Saturday, as it hosts the fifth-seeded Tribe of William & Mary to kick off the CAA quarterfinals. Coincidentally, the Tribe is the only team this season that was able to defeat Hofstra in conference play. Having won five of their last six regular season games, the Pride have mounted serious momentum heading into their fourth consecutive CAA Tournament.
“We’re going in eyes wide open. It’s going to have to be a tremendous performance, and I think William & Mary, individually, they’re probably the best team in the conference,” said head coach Richard Nuttall on the W.B. Mason Coaches Report.
The Tribe and the Pride are no strangers to one another. It was just last year that William & Mary sent the Pride packing in the CAA semifinals with a 3-1 victory. In their last match, Hofstra was severely outplayed in a 2-0 loss, where William & Mary outshot the Pride 22-8.
For the Pride, Saturday’s matchup is about keeping emotions in check.
“From our point of view, it’s about trying to stick to the game plan – do better than we did against them last time, and, hopefully, come out with something at the end of the day,” Nuttall said.
Led in points by the senior-sophomore pair of Danny Elliott and Luke Brown, Hofstra has put its best feet forward in trying to fill the scoring void left by the former 2016 CAA Preseason Player of the Year Joseph Holland. Both Elliott and Brown have three goals and three assists for a total of nine points in the regular season. Sophomore Oscar Ramsay also finished the 2017 campaign with three goals of his own.
On the other side of the pitch stand the top two point leaders in the CAA, Antonio Bustamante and Ryder Bell. With 21 and 19 points respectively, Bustamante and Bell boast the best points per game percentages in the CAA at 1.24 and 1.12.
“I think it’s going to take great one-on-one defending and a mentality not to lose … They are talented, and I think they just recently destroyed Virginia Tech, 4-1, so that shows the level of ability they have on the team,” Nuttall said.
If the Pride is able to successfully get past William & Mary on Saturday, they will meet the James Madison Dukes in the CAA semifinals. The Dukes’ 5-1-2 in-conference record is tops in the CAA. Their last meeting with the Pride ended in a double-overtime tie at 1-1. This was the first time that Hofstra did not defeat James Madison in regulation in five years (4-0-1).
Game time on Saturday is scheduled for 7 p.m. at Hofstra Soccer Stadium. The semifinal game against James Madison will take place on Nov. 12 in Harrisonburg, Virginia.