After a disappointing 2016 season, the Hofstra Pride women’s lacrosse team will hit the field to start the new year in an unfamiliar position, looking up from the cellar of the CAA rather than from the top.
“We have a long way to go and a lot of improvement to make,” said head coach Shannon Smith.“We’re just focusing on trying to get better each day.”
The Pride fell from the top of the CAA pack last season, finishing last with a 1-5 mark in conference play, and just a 3-13 record overall.
That finish was a huge let down for a team that won 11 games and the regular-season CAA championship in 2014, not to mention a team that routinely found itself competing for the CAA title in the conference tournament.
Last year was the first time missing out on the postseason tournament for Smith.
“Our expectations definitely weren’t met last year,” Smith said. “The past is behind us now, and we look forward to where we currently are.”
The CAA preseason polls – released just a few weeks ago – have Hofstra slated to finish in sixth place in the seven-team CAA, just ahead of The College of William & Mary.
Towson University, last year’s CAA champs, have been picked to repeat as champs this season, followed by James Madison University.
“It’s not surprising because we had a down year last year,” Smith said. “For us, we just have to focus on ourselves, not what people say.”
As far as individual honors go, Amanda Seekamp, one of Hofstra’s captains, was named as an All-CAA honorable mention, the only member of the Pride to be represented on the all-conference list.
“Amanda Seekamp is really starting to come into her own,” Smith said. “I think she’s learned a lot and is growing into a better leader and player.”
Towson’s Kaitlyn Montalbano was chosen as preseason CAA Player of the Year.
Just as the Pride had to deal with the loss of Brittain Altomare heading into last season, Hofstra will have to deal with the loss of Lindsay Scott.
A graduate transfer last season, Scott was the focal point of Hofstra’s offense last season, scoring 52 goals to lead the team by a wide margin. The Pride’s next-most prolific scorer, Lexi Lenaghan, scored 18 goals.
“Lindsay Scott’s a hard player to replace,” Smith said. “Lexi Lenaghan has had a pretty good last couple of months here.”
Lenaghan will return to build on an impressive freshman campaign, but with so much production to replace without Scott on the front line, the Pride will have to look a lot of different ways to find scoring if Hofstra wishes to contend in the CAA this year.
Available options for the Pride include returners like Becky Conto, Morgan Knox and Drew Shapiro.
Knox, a senior attacker, will help shoulder the majority of the load up front for the Pride. In addition to scoring eight goals last season, Knox had 13 assists, second on the team to the now-departed Tiana Parrella.
Shapiro and Conto are a pair of midfielders that could score the ball, with 18 and 10 goals last year, respectively.
Without one top-shelf attacker, but rather a bunch of solid scorers, Hofstra’s offense this year will feature a much different look than the narrow, Scott-centric offense that the Pride featured last season.
With potentially more balance and ways to attack, this should bode well for the Pride this season.
“I think we have a more dynamic attack this year,” Smith said. “We have a lot of speed and a lot of athleticism.”
Shifting to the back line, Hofstra’s defense looks to get stronger on the line and in net after a disappointing performance as a unit last year.
The Pride allowed 218 goals last season at an average of almost 14 goals per game, which was the most goals allowed per game by any team in the CAA.
After an intense goalie battle that lasted most of the season, it’ll be Alexis Greene, Maddie Fields and Sara Guarascio duking it out to start in net for the Pride.
Early indications point to Fields winning the starting job heading into the season opener, but a definitive starter has not been named yet.
“Maddie Fields has definitely been leading the pack since the fall,” Smith said. “She’s been putting in the extra time and the extra work.”
Defensive leaders like Shelby Milne and Carolyn Carrera are gone, and the Pride really doesn’t have too much experience returning to the back line. Fans will most likely see a collection of new faces on defense to start the season, and a couple newer players will have to learn on the job as Hofstra faces some tough tests in the non-conference portion of its schedule.
Tough out-of-conference scheduling is a trend that has been indicative of the Pride for a long time now, and it doesn’t get any easier this season with perennial powerhouses University of Maryland and Johns Hopkins University taking the trip to Hempstead to clash with Hofstra.
“If you want to be the best, you have to play the best,” Smith said. “I think a competitive non-conference schedule prepares you for conference play.
In addition, the Pride will also take on foes like Fairfield University and the University of New Hampshire, teams that beat Hofstra last season.
This is all part of the plan, according to Smith, as Hofstra prepares to run the gauntlet in the CAA against tough teams like Towson and James Madison.
It’s been 10 years since Hofstra’s last CAA title, and there’s no doubt that the Pride will hit the field hungry to reclaim its place as one of the top teams in the conference.
That journey back to the top begins on Feb. 18 as Hofstra heads to Pennsylvania to take on Bucknell University.