Coming off the program’s first conference title in five years, the Hofstra women’s soccer team has high expectations for a repeat trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2013.
The Pride return most starters from a 2012 squad that wemt 11-9-2 overall and captured the Colonial Athletic Association crown with a 2-1 overtime win against UNC-Wilmington. The dramatic victory sent Hofstra to its second NCAA Tournament in three years and marked its first conference championship trophy since 2007.
“The girls made a commitment last spring to do everything they can to repeat,” said Hofstra head coach Simon Riddiough, who has never had a losing season since taking over the program in 2006. “I think this team is ready to commit to that challenge.”
While most starters are back, Hofstra suffered a blow in its third game against North Dakota State on Aug. 30 when sophomore midfielder Jill Mulholland injured her tibia and is expected to miss the remainder of the season. Mulholland, a former standout at MacArthur High School in Levittown, was picked to the All-CAA first team and the 2013 All-CAA preseason team after scoring five goals in her freshman campaign.
Hofstra’s offense is led by sophomore forward Leah Galton, who earned CAA Preseason Player of the Year accolades after leading the Pride with 11 goals and 27 points last season. The England native registered three goals and six points in the first four games of 2013.
“I think she is one of the best student-athletes in the nation,” said Riddiough
of Galton, who was the 2012 CAA Rookie of the Year and named to the league’s First Team.
Other key contributors to Hofstra’s offense include juniors Sam Scolarici and Lulu Echeverry, a former All-County selection at East Meadow High School. Scolarici’s 10 goals last season included netting the overtime game-winner of the CAA finals on Nov. 4. Echeverry, who was born in Cali, Columbia, tallied eight goals as a sophomore playing right down the road from her East Meadow home.
“She is just a tremendous player,” said Riddiough of Echeverry. “She has a tremendous passion for the game.”
Hofstra is also bolstered offensively from the return of senior Amber Stobbs, who earned an all-star appearance this past summer in the W-League playing for the Washington Spirit Reserves. The London native scored two goals in 11 games last season before suffering a season-ending collarbone injury.
A new local player contributing to Hofstra’s midfield is freshman Emily Agudelo, who as a senior at Long Beach High School was named Conference AA2 Player of the Year while also earning All-County honors. “[Agudelo] has amazing tools,” Riddiough said. “We are expecting big things from her.”
On defense, Hofstra has an experienced unit led by seniors Ruby Staplehurst and Brittany Farriella along with junior Caylin Dudley. Starting goalkeeper Emily Morphitis is also back for her senior season after posting five shutouts during last year’s conference championship run.
Other key components of the Pride in 2013 include senior Tara Kerns, who can play defense or midfield, and sophomore midfielder Chloe Dale.
Hofstra began the season 1-3, with all losses combing by a goal to last year’s College Cup finalist Penn State, Boston College and Syracuse. During the setback to Boston College, who defeated Hofstra in the 2010 and 2012 NCAA Tournaments, Hofstra rallied from a 5-2 second-half deficit before dropping a 6-5 overtime thriller in the program’s highest scoring game ever.
Hofstra opens CAA play Sept. 29 with a rematch of last year’s conference title tilt against UNC-Wilmington starting at 7 p.m. before facing new league opponent, College of Charleston, two days later for a noon kickoff.