March 3, 2013

Smith's Pride Shows Promise in Loss to No. 1 Maryland

by Clare Lochary | LaxMagazine.com | Twitter | Live Blog Replay

"They have great heart and passion for one another and for the program," first-year coach Shannon Smith said of the Pride after a 16-11 loss to top-ranked Maryland on Sunday.
© John Strohsacker/LaxPhotos.com

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — In five games as a coach, Hofstra's Shannon Smith has a 4-1 record. Three of the wins were one-goal games, and two of those were comeback victories. The unranked Pride even gave No. 1 Maryland a run for its money in College Park, posting a 16-11 loss that showed flashes of real promise.

So it begs the question: Are Hofstra's players trying to give Smith, the youngest coach in Division I at age 22, grey hairs before her time?

"I don't know if my head's going to be grey before next season, but it's good, and it's fun," Smith replied with a laugh. "I think it's only going to be good for them playing those close games as the season goes on. I think this is a great growing game for us, to watch film and to get better."

Maryland started fast against the Pride, scoring three goals in less than four minutes. But Hofstra responded with a 3-1 run, closing the gap to 4-3 at 23:13. That was as close as the visitors ever came to a tie, although they matched the Terps in terms of energy and speed.

"Hofstra came out hard. I give their team a lot of credit for stepping on the field and never backing down," Maryland coach Cathy Reese said.

In preparation for the Terps, Hofstra honed in on the draw versus Maryland freshman phenom Taylor Cummings. Pride senior midfielder Jill Maier led all players with eight draw controls, and got the best of the Terps in the first half with support from sophomores April Iannetta and Brittain Altomare. In the second half, Reese threw reserve players Bryn Boucher and Camilla Hayes into the mix against Maier, and ultimately the Terps won the draw battle, 16-13. But it was a hard-fought victory for a team that usually dominates the circle with ease.

Seven different players scored for the Pride, led by junior attack Julia Reimer with three goals. Altomare was the points leader with two goals and two assists, and was Hofstra's primary feeder from behind the cage. Maryland defenders Megan Douty (4 GB, 3 CT) and Iliana Sanza (1 CT) prowled the crease and the goal line expertly, though, and while the Pride had 31 shots, they were often rushed. Terp goalie Kasey Howard finished with 12 saves, including seven in the second half.

"We had to get their defense moving, and I think we had a lot of shot opportunities and we just need to put more of those away," Smith said.

Hofstra sophomore goalie Kelsey Gregerson showed some spark, posting 10 saves and two caused turnovers in the loss. Gregerson is a mobile keeper who steps out of the crease for interceptions and to body up on crease players. She had a misstep late in the second half when she fouled freshman attacker Halle Majorana (1g, 1a) and had to stand behind the 8-meter on the ensuing free position, giving up an easy goal that boosted Maryland to a 16-8 lead with 8:56 to play.

"Kelsey plays with a lot of confidence. She's fun to watch, and it's going to be fun to watch her grow this season as we instill her with more confidence," Smith said.

Senior attacker Alex Aust led the Terps with four goals and assists, and completed a phenomenal weekend in which she scored 19 combined points in two games, including a career-best 10 points in Maryland's 18-10 win over Virginia on Friday night.

With Aust and the Terps on such a tear, it's a credit to Hofstra that they closed the game as well as they did. The Pride scored the final three goals (admittedly against a Maryland lineup that was a mix of starters and reserve players) and could walk away from College Park knowing they could compete with the nation's best.

Smith, who was the 2011 Tewaraaton Award winner and a three-time NCAA champion at Northwestern, could feel satisfied in where in her team is, and excited about how far they can still go.

"They constantly fight. They have great heart and passion for one another and for the program. That doesn't surprise me that we don't stop fighting," Smith said. "It's just been a lot of fun to teach them, and to instill confidence in someone else, and show them and have them take the skills and go out and use it."


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