Hofstra aims for another CAA crown


Hofstra women’s soccer defied the odds last year to repeat as conference champions and will look for a far clearer postseason path this fall in the Coastal Athletic Association.

The Pride was in danger of missing the 2022 CAA tourney following a 2-1 defeat to Stony Brook in the regular-season finale but moments after the game learned they had earned the league’s final tournament spot when results in other matches went Hofstra’s way. Hofstra proceeded to take full advantage of its renewed life to win its fifth CAA title in six years as the eight seed starting by knocking out top-seeded Monmouth and culminating in a dramatic overtime win at Northeastern.

“Once you face the jaws of defeat, I think it's easy to have a new lease of life,” said 18th-year Hofstra women’s soccer head coach Simon Riddiough, who has guided the Pride to seven CAA titles and nine NCAA Tournament appearances since taking over the program in 2006. “To get that opportunity again was like a breath of fresh air and new impetus.” 

Riddiough returns seven starters off last year’s 10-8-4 team that reached the NCAA Tournament for the sixth time in eight seasons. After a season-opening 2-1 loss at Albany, Hofstra rebounded in a major way with a 1-0 upset win at Big Ten power Rutgers on Aug. 20 on a late goal from junior midfielder Olivia Pearse on a counter attack in the 88th minute. 

Pearse, a former standout at Seaford High School, has emerged as one of Hofstra’s most impactful players on both ends of the field. She netted two goals and two assists as a sophomore. 

“She has come in fitter than I have ever seen her and with a new attitude,” said Riddiough of Pearse, who switched from the wide forward to fullback role last season. “She wears her heart on her sleeve and she leads by example.” 

Hofstra returned last year’s leading scorer Dagny Run Petursdottir, who registered 19 points on seven goals and five assists as a freshman out of Iceland and was named to the Preseason All-CAA Honorable Mention team. Another Iceland product, Thorhildur Thorhallsdottir, also shined as a first-year college player with three goals and two assists.

Sophomore midfielder/defender Wiktoria Fronc, a London native, also made her mark on Long Island from across the pond with seven assists to earn All-CAA Third Team and All-CAA and CAA All-Rookie Team honors. 

While the Hofstra roster is global in nature featuring 10 international players from four countries to go along with 10 U.S. states, the team boasts many impactful local players led by Pearse and graduate student defender Cailey Welch, a former standout at North Shore High School. Freshman defender Jill Conlon, a two-time all county player from Calhoun High school in Merrick, could potentially see some minutes on the backline during her rookie college season on the college soccer pitch. 

“She’s composed on the ball,” Riddiough said of Conlon. “She's a wonderfully nice kid who cares and I'm assuming will work hard to get to where she needs to go.”

Graduate student starting goalie Skylar Kuzmich has missed the beginning of the season due to injury, but Riddiough hopes to have her back during the heart of CAA play. Junior goalie Mackenzie Sullivan has stepped up in Kuzmich’s absence and recorded five seasons in the Rutgers victory. 

Hofstra kicks off its home schedule this Sunday against Atlantic 10 foe Saint Joseph’s at 1 p.m. before beginning its quest for another CAA title on Sept. 10 when it hosts league newcomer Campbell at 1 p.m. The Pride’s home schedule is highlighted by a CAA finals rematch against Northeastern on Oct. 1 at 1 p.m. 

The Pride were picked to finish third in the CAA Women's Soccer Preseason Poll behind Monmouth and Northeastern. The top six finishers in the 13-team conference will earn spots to the CAA Tournament that commences on Oct. 26. 

“If we stay healthy I think we can compete and beat anybody in the conference,” Riddiough said.