Hofstra University goalkeeper #18 Andrew Gvozden positions himself to make...

Hofstra University goalkeeper #18 Andrew Gvozden positions himself to make a save during NCAA men's lacrosse team practice at Shuart Stadium. (Feb. 8, 2011) Credit: Photo by James Escher

Hofstra goalie Andrew Gvozden is purposeful and confident, which also describes the Pride's men's lacrosse team. Three straight appearances in the NCAA Tournament are not enough; this year it is all about advancing.

The team was 9-5 last season and lost to Maryland in the first round. But it is the reminder of two seasons ago - when the Pride lost a first-round game at Cornell and was a spectator when Hofstra hosted the quarterfinals - that still resonates. Hofstra again will host the quarterfinals in May.

"It still stings,'' Gvozden said. "For a lot of these guys, it's the last runaround for some of our best players. Jamie Lincoln [33 goals, 19 assists], Jay Card [31, 22], Stephen Bentz [29, 12], Mike Skudin, Steve DeNapoli, Tim Holman, all excellent players. I think this is one of the best teams that Hofstra has ever seen.''

Gvozden has participated in the last two tournaments. He battled for the starting job and has been named the team's No. 1 goalie by coach Seth Tierney (fifth season, 36-23).

"There's a term where you have to be good through the middle of the field,'' Tierney said. "It starts with your goalie.''

Tierney does not make decisions in stone and added, "I said [to Gvozden], it doesn't mean you can take the rest of the semester off. You have to work harder to keep it. It's harder to stay on top of the mountain than it is to climb up it.''

In 23 career games, Gvozden has an 8.70 goals-against average and .545 save percentage.

"He's all strengths,'' said Skudin, a defender. "It's awesome to see how much he's progressed.''

Gvozden said he gained invaluable experience in his first two seasons.

"After playing against Cornell, then Maryland, scrimmaging Syracuse, playing Princeton, Hopkins, I feel like I've seen everything there is,'' he said. "For the most part, I feel like I've seen the best that there is. I have no more questions about what's to come. I know what's out there. I know I've played against them all. I understand the game. I understand who we go against. I understand away games. I understand home games. I understand pressure.''

Tierney has not masked the team's objective - making the quarterfinals. "It's a goal of ours to be playing on that day,'' he said. "There's no getting around it. I don't think we can avoid it. I don't want to hide it. I want it to be a little bit of a Twinkie and we've got to go and chase it.''

The offense will revolve around Card, who would be the first Hofstra player to start in four straight NCAA postseason games, but he has plenty of help in Bentz and Lincoln. Lafayette transfer Steve Serling, who scored 37 goals last season, could push Card for most goals on the team.

"Speaking for the senior class, we've had an opportunity to make an impact in the postseason every year we've been a part of it,'' Card said. "It seems every year we come up a little bit short. For us as seniors, trying to take our work ethic and our attitude and chemistry to the next level.''

Skudin said he didn't attend the quarterfinal in 2009.

"I didn't even come to the games because I couldn't watch other teams play on our field,'' he said.

The players have cordoned off some seats at Shuart Stadium, site of the quarterfinals.

"It reminds everyone to play your heart out and give everything you got,'' Skudin said, "because if you don't, you'll be sitting in these seats and not playing on the field.''

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