Hofstra softball entered year two of the Adrienne Clark era determined for a better finish after a heartbreaking end to the 2022 season.
Clark, former standout softball player for the Pride from 2002 to 2005, led her alma mater to a second place finish in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) before the season ended suddenly with two one-run losses in the conference playoffs. This spring the Pride will have a chance to compete for the program's first CAA title and automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament since 2018 in front of its home fans when Hofstra hosts the league’s tournament for the first time in 10 years.
“There's nothing lat Pride Rock and getting that home field advantage,” said Clark, who was an assistant coach at Hofstra from 2012 to 2014 before holding coaching positions at Connecticut and Purdue. I do think it adds a little bit of extra motivation to want to make sure that we're doing everything we can to put ourselves in a position to be there at the conference tournament.”
The Pride jumped out to a 5-1 start in league play this season beginning with a sweep of CAA newcomer Stony Brook on March 18-19. Hofstra then took two of three against another CAA addition, Monmouth last weekend capped with a 3-0 home win on March 26.
The bulk of last year’s roster returned led by senior center fielder Chelsea Manto, who led the team with a .358 batting average along with 21 stolen bases to earn First-Team All CAA accolades. Graduate student shortstop Meghan Giordano, brings power to the lineup after smashing seven home runs last season
Graduate student second baseman Kasey Collins leads the team in hitting with a .309 average in her final season of collegiate baseball. Junior catcher Becca Vaillancourt, a UMass-Lowell transfer, and graduate student first baseman Angelina Ioppolo were also among Hofstra’s leading hitters heading into April.
Hofstra’s lineup has a strong local presence that includes the sister duo of junior Brianna Morse and freshman Alanna Morse, who both starred at Mepham High School in North Bellmore. Brianna Morse knocked in four runs in Hofstra’s 6-5 win over Monmouth on March 24 while Alanna registered two RBIs in the team’s 4-1 victory at Stony Brook on March 19.
“I remember having them come to games when I was an assistant coach here and they they loved everything about the game of softball and Hofstra so it's so cool to now see them living out what was once a childhood dream to them,” Clark said. “They are phenomenal athletes and even better people.”
Amanda Maffucci, a graduate student outfielder and Kennedy High School (Bellmore) product, is coming off a senior season in which she batted .300 to earn Second Team All CAA honors. Sophomore Anna Butler, a former three-time All Nassau County selection at Seaford High School, is also playing college softball in her backyard and recorded a pinch-hit RBI in a 3-2 win against Holy Cross on March 4.
The pitching staff is led by Nikki Mullin, Haley Venturini and Julia Apsel. All three are capable starters who Clark can turn to for key games based on who is pitching their best.
“We are really fortunate to have a staff of some really phenomenal pitchers that all bring something different to the table,” said Clark, who was a standout pitcher for the Pride in her playing days. “We spend a lot of time focusing on the staff element and not the individuality behind it, which we do because the message and the mindset and philosophy behind that is that it's going to take all of them to be able to win a conference championship and all of them will contribute along the way.”
After a road series at CAA newcomer North Carolina A&T, Hofstra returns to Bill Edwards Stadium on April 7 for a doubleheader against Towson starting at 1 p.m. Hofstra will also be home for a three-game series versus Elon on April 22-23 and Delaware April 29-30.
Hofstra will host the CAA Tournament for the first time since winning the conference title in 2013 from May 9-13.