Hofstra fueled for CAA success


Hofstra women’s basketball is looking to build off last season's late success that spurred the Pride to the conference quarterfinals as the No. 12 seed.

The Pride struggled to a 4-14 league record before posting two wins in the Colonial Athletic Association (now known as the Coastal Athletic Association) tournament and giving four seed William & Mary a competitive game in a 76-64 season-ending defeat. Hofstra was picked 12th in the preseason CAA women’s basketball preseason poll and will try to prove the doubters wrong this winter.

“I think our returners took it personal and feel they've got more to contribute than a 12th-place team,” said fifth-year Hofstra head coach Danielle Santos Atkinson. “It's one thing to take it personally, but what is the action to go with that? And that's been our focus.” 

The Pride were ultra focused last Saturday in a commanding 113-24 romp against Division III foe Farmingdale State, which set a program record for points scored and points allowed. Sophomore guard Emma Von Essen, a Rockville Centre native, tallied 29 points including nine 3-pointers. 

Santos Atkinson brings back several returners from last year’s 12-20 season led by graduate student guard Sorelle Ineza, who was second on the team scoring with 10 points per game. The Quebec native tallied 20 points in a narrow 63-60 loss at Sacred Heart in Fairfield, Conn. on Nov. 19.

Von Essen has emerged as an offensive leader for the Pride after playing her way into a regular starter as a freshman. The former four-year standout at Long Island Lutheran, is the Pride's leading scorer averaging 14.6 points per game and is displaying more aggressiveness on offense. 

“One of the areas where she wanted to improve was in the weight room and I think that's definitely improved her game and helped with her accuracy and also helped her stamina,” said Santos Atkinson of Von Essen, who has hit 29 3-pointers so far this season. “She can score the ball in bunches.”  

Senior guard Ally Knights, an Australia native, provides additional experience in the backcourt with Essen after averaging 3.5 assists per game last season. 

Zyheima Swint,a 6-3 senior center, provides the Pride some size and experience inside after averaging eight points a game as a junior and was leading CAA in rebounding through mid-December. Senior 6-0 forward Brooke Anya has also shined on the glass and is the conference's fourth-leading rebounder. 

The Pride have also been given a boost this season by the return of redshirt junior guard Selma Markisic, who missed last season due to injury. Markisic, a Brooklyn native who starred at Xaverian High School, tallied 10 points in a 51-48 victory against Wagner on Nov. 12 and posted 20 in the Farmingdale State romp. 

“To be able to get another shooter and scorer added back to the team is huge for us," said Santos Atkinson of Markisic. “She is still finding her way after being off for a whole year, but she’s going to be a great addition as we get here rolling into conference play.” 

Hofstra opens the CAA schedule on Jan. 5 with a home game against UNC-Wilmington at 7 p.m. followed two days later with a matinee at the Mack Sports Complex versus William & Mary for a 2 p.m. tipoff. The Pride will host Stony Brook for a Friday night Battle of Long Island matchup on Feb. 1 at 7 p.m. and will conclude its home schedule versus Monmouth on March 3 at 2 p.m. 

“We’re very versatile and I'm excited about what's to come and what we're going to be able to be able to do,” Santos Atkinson said. “We have to continue putting it together and getting better but we have the pieces to do it.”