Hofstra's volleyball team was in danger of not even qualifying for the CAA Tournament. Then the Pride rallied to win its last four matches and swept through the CAA playoffs to gain an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
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Hofstra, making its seventh NCAA appearance, is 0-3 against Florida State but did push the Seminoles to five sets in 1984. It's a little ancient history, but Hofstra will run with it.
"The team has been practicing really aggressively and they've got a lot of energy right now,'' Pride coach Kristina Hernandez said. "I'm excited to see what they can do against them. We want to go out there and be competitive. Regardless of what the result is, we want to go out there and represent ourselves and the CAA. I think winning the conference is very important and a huge milestone. Everything from there on is a bonus.''
Hofstra has some formidable talent. Kelsie Wills, an outside hitter from New Zealand, has 567 kills, 285 digs and 39 service aces. Nikki Kinnier has 419 kills and 88 blocks.
From the perspective of libero (defensive specialist) Kayla Maneja, it will be a can't- lose situation. "We are so excited going to Florida,'' she said.
Maneja, who holds the team record for career digs with 2,038, is looking forward to an extended period of warm weather. After the NCAAs, she is headed home to Hawaii, where she lives near the set of the popular TV show "Hawaii Five-0.''
"One time they filmed right down the hill from my house,'' she said. "They had to block off all the streets because they were in a car chase.''
Maneja left the Big Island behind for Long Island and has enjoyed her four years here. "My family pushed me to go far away because they wanted me to experience something different,'' she said. "When I came to visit, I fell in love with the team, I saw coach Hernandez's skills, the campus was really nice. Who doesn't want to go to New York? Hawaii is so small and New York's different; it's the opposite.''
Maneja expects the Pride to give the Seminoles a good effort. "We know we're the underdogs,'' she said. "Obviously, we're just going to go and compete and play our game basically and see what happens. If we are aggressive and play our game and if we have the mind-set, we believe we can win, anything's possible. We have nothing to lose.''