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Hofstra aims for NCAA tourney berth


On the heels of reaching the doorstep of the NCAA Tournament, Hofstra men’s soccer is geared up for a new journey to try and reach the sport’s big stage.

Hofstra dropped a heartbreaker in last year’s Colonial Athletic Association finals falling to James Madison on penalty kicks after sending the match to overtime late in regulation. The bitter feelings from that cold November afternoon in Harrisonburg, Virginia when an automatic NCAA Tourney bid was on the line have stayed with the returning Pride players and will be used as an extra fuel when tackling a challenging 2019 schedule.

“The returning players have that bitter feeling and they are going to try and use that to their advantage,” said longtime head coach Richard Nuttall, who has led Hofstra to four CAA titles with the last occurring in 2015. “Hopefully they use it as motivation.”

A key part of last year’s run to the CAA title match departed with second-leading scorer Luke Brown transferring to Maryland. With Brown gone, junior Matthew Vowinkel will be tasked with taking on a bigger offensive after leading the Pride with eight goals as a sophomore. Returning goal scorers Oscar Ramsay, Storm Strongin, Peter Meyer, Luca Tausch and Lennart Seufer along with University of South Carolina transfer Petter Soelberg and freshman Jason Ramirez give Hofstra multiple weapons to keep opposing defenses on their toes.

“We have quality players all around on offense,” Nuttall said. 

Hofstra will also have a void to fill on the backline after the graduation of 2018 CAA Defensive Player of the Year Sean Nealis, who is now suiting up for Major League Soccer’s New York Red Bulls. Nuttall is looking for senior Adam Savill as well as freshmen Frederik Rieper, Stone Strongin and Shane Salmon to step up on the defensive end. Salmon, a West Hempstead native, was an All-Catholic League selection down the road from Hofstra at Uniondale’s Kellenberg Memorial.

Graduate student keeper Alex Ashton gives the Pride experience in net after earning All-CAA Third-Team honors last year with a .090 goals against average and 60 saves. Sophomore Alex Dudley, who transferred from St. John’s last year, and freshman Duncan Wegner are also competing for time in goal.

“He is one of the best keepers in the conference and maybe the best,” said Nuttall of Ashton, who posted nine shutouts last year.

Hofstra was picked to finish third in the nine-team CAA behind JMU and UNCW.  Vowinkel was named to the preseason All-CAA First Team voted upon by the league’s head coaches.

Nuttall has once again set Hofstra up with a grueling non-conference slate that kicks off at home on Friday at home against Fordham at 5:30 p.m. Hofstra’s non-conference slate is also highlighted by a neutral site meeting with ACC power Virginia Tech on Sept. 8 and a local rivalry home battle against Stony Brook on Sept. 18. The Pride also host nearby non-conference opponents Long Island University on Oct. 1, Seton Hall on Oct. 16 and Columbia to close the regular season on Nov. 5.

“We have some quality teams on the schedule,” Nuttall said. “It’s a nice mixture.”

Hofstra opens CAA play early in the season at JMU in a rematch of last year’s CAA finals on Sept. 6. The Pride’s home conference opener will be a Saturday night meeting with Elon on Sept. 21 at 7 p.m.

 All Hofstra home matches are free of charge. For further information on the Pride’s schedule, log onto gohofstra.com.