A miscommunication here, a miscue there.
The slightest mistakes in key, late-game moments can add up, and Hofstra’s men’s lacrosse team can testify.
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The Pride went 5-9 in 2015, losing seven games by 10 total goals.
They suffered an 8-7 loss to Drexel, which placed third in the CAA, but they also fell 9-8 to Ohio State, which finished the season ranked ninth in the Inside Lacrosse poll.
The potential for success was evident, and with eight starters returning, Hofstra expects last year’s experience to help it achieve its goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament.
“When you go 5-9,” Hofstra coach Seth Tierney said, “you want to have those guys back because they’re angry and they want to get back at it.”
Added senior Sam Llinares, “Coming off a year like last year, we’re doing whatever we can to avoid that happening again.”
Tierney has drilled his players through late-game scenarios.
The team has practiced one-possession situations. But Llinares thinks Hofstra’s experience will be critical.
“We go into this year with more confidence, knowing we have a lot of guys back that have a lot of game experience under their belt,” said Llinares, the 2015 CAA Player of the Year and the 2016 CAA Preseason Player of the Year. “Game experience is something you really can’t teach.”
Llinares, whom the Denver Outlaws selected 31st overall in the 2016 Major League Lacrosse Collegiate Draft last month, leads the group of returnees. He scored 33 goals and had 24 assists as a junior, despite battling a hip injury.
“Sam was playing at maybe 30 percent last year and still had an unbelievable year, just to show you the kind of heart that he had,” Tierney said.
Given Llinares’ pedigree, Hofstra’s returning experience and the addition of a few impact transfers, CAA coaches picked the Pride to finish second in the conference, behind Towson.
In addition to Llinares, Hofstra returns three players who scored more than 15 points — senior midfielder Korey Hendrickson (21), sophomore midfielder Dylan Alderman (18) and junior attack Brier Davis (16). Junior midfielder Kris Clarke, the 2015 team’s leader with 82 groundballs and a 60.9 percent faceoff percentage, is back.
Tierney also added junior attack Josh Byrne, who won NJCAA Region XV Player of the Year for Nassau CC last year, as well as Long Islanders Brett Osman (Marist) and Liam Blohm (Ohio State).
Hofstra will once again face a challenging schedule, which includes five teams ranked in the preseason Inside Lacrosse Top 20 poll — No. 8 North Carolina, No. 20 Princeton, No. 14 Georgetown, No. 12 Ohio State and No. 17 Towson. It’s a schedule that, with enough positive results, could produce an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament should Hofstra fall short of the CAA title, as it did with an 11-10 loss to Drexel in the 2014 final.
“[The NCAA Tournament] has been something that’s eluded us,” Llinares said. “My sophomore year, being that close and not making it to the NCAA Tournament has hung over us as motivation for the past two years.”