Predicting when a group of young players will turn the corner and begin to move forward is a tricky thing. Just ask Hofstra women’s basketball coach Krista Kilburn-Steveskey.
Youth, combined with injuries and discipline issues have at times hit the Pride. But it never stopped them. That was proven Sunday after Hofstra held off William & Mary, 66-56, for its fourth win in five games. The Pride (10-11, 5-5 CAA) improved to .500 in conference play.
With three freshmen and one sophomore in the starting lineup, it hasn’t been all roses. But Kilburn-Steveskey thinks her team is beginning to find its groove.
“At times you can be consistently inconsistent. But I think they have definitely found moments to find their confidence and they’re competing hard,” said Kilburn-Steveskey. “I’ve been around here for a long time and I think we’re finally getting the right pieces of the puzzle in there.”
Part of Hofstra’s slow start can be attributed to a few of the young players not having a full grasp of just how tough the CAA can be. “Night after night, you’re going up against a great conference of opponents who are well coached,” said Kilburn-Steveskey.
Kilburn-Steveskey pointed to the Pride’s 65-55 win at Northeastern on Jan. 23 as the turning point. The coach lauded her team for putting away the Wildcats down the stretch. The Pride led by nine at the half, but needed a strong push midway through the second half to secure the win.
“Northeastern really got them together,” she said. “You have to compete like that in every game.”
The lesson was driven home again in Sunday's win over William and Mary as Hofstra saw an 11-point second-half advantage cut to 55-54 with 3:31 left. But the Pride hits its free throws and played well enough defensively for the win.
"We made the plays we needed to make and we made the stops we needed," the coach said.
A. 500 conference record with six left to play (in League, Hofstra has a non-conference game with NJIT) gives the Pride a realistic shot at finishing somewhere in the top three. But her players need to believe it. They also need to understand there won’t be any easy games down the stretch.
“We don’t have any teams that aren’t good and don’t compete in this league this year,” she said. There’s no one you can sleep on. Everyone’s going to fight to the end.”