Hofstra seeks CAA playoff berth


After an up and down non-conference schedule, Hofstra women’s lacrosse gets a chance to hit the reset button with the start of conference play.
Hofstra entered the start of the Coastal Athletic Association portion of its schedule with a record of 3-4 and kicked off the league slate on an uplifting note with a 13-10 win at Campbell last Saturday.
The Pride is now looking to qualify for the four-team CAA tournament in early May after missing out on the postseason for the first time since 2018 last spring.
“I think it’s a great opportunity for a new season and I think we have started to find out a lot about ourselves and who we are as a team,” said 12th-year Hofstra head coach Shannon Smith. “Overall we have started to play better and we’re starting to hit our stride at the right part of our season when we go into conference play.”
The Pride have already equaled their win total from last season when Hofstra went 4-12 with two of those victories coming prior to a season-ending knee injury to rookie phenom Nikki Mennella. The now redshirt-freshman attacker is back healthy and is third on the team with 16 goals despite missing two games. 

Graduate student Taylor Mennella, the older sister of Nikki, is tied for first on the team in scoring with 29 points on 19 goals and 10 assists. Hofstra has also gotten a boost from graduate student attacker Melissa Sconone, a University of North Carolina (UNC) transfer who also has 29 points. 
“She brings a lot of leadership and a lot of experience and a calming presence,” said Smith of Sconone, who tallied 35 goals during her UNC career and was part of the Tar Heels’ 2022 national championship team. “She’s been nothing but a tremendous addition and asset to our team.”
Senior midfielder Kerry Walser has provided key veteran leadership in her final season with 15 goals so far. The Bay Shore native was an integral part of the 2021 Hofstra team that received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament her freshman season.
The Hofstra defense– led by Trinity Reed, Brynn Hepting, Ashlyn McDonald and Christine Dannenfelser— held Wagner scoreless for three quarters in a dominating 15-2 win on March 5. Sophomore goalie Luchianna Cardello is starting in net for the second straight season and recorded 10 saves in a season-opening 13-5 victory against Long Island University on Feb. 10.
The Pride’s roster features plenty of Long Island players including senior attacker Grace Pupke, who was a standout at Seaford High School. Pupke registered an assist late in the Wagner win and is often utilized in the player-up situations on the offense. 
“Grace is one of our hardest workers on our team,” said Smith of Pupke, who registered 44 goals and 16 assists during her final high school season at Seaford in 2019. “She’s a great person and a great teammate and brings a lot of energy to our practices.”
Hofstra will host William & Mary in its CAA opener this Friday, March 22 at 5 p.m. before returning home Sunday to face Elon at noon. The Pride will also host Monmouth on April 12 at 5p.m. and close the conference schedule on April 27 versus Drexel at noon. The remaining road league schedule is highlighted by an April 21 visit to Long Island rival and defending CAA champion Stony Brook at noon.
“Every game that you play is a backyard brawl and anyone can win on any given day in our conference,” Smith said. “I’m just super excited for the journey that we’re about to go on with our team for conference play.”