Hempstead, NY – The Hofstra Volleyball team will make its return to the NCAA Championship this week as the Pride will take on Florida State in a first round match-up on Friday evening in Tallahassee, Florida.
Colorado State and Purdue will meet in the other first round contest at Tully Gymnasium, with that match beginning at 4:30 p.m. and followed by the Pride and the Seminoles at 6:30 p.m.
The two winners from the first round contests will meet on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. in the second round.
Hofstra (21-13) is returning to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since advancing to the second round in 2006. It is the Pride’s seventh appearance all-time with the other appearances occurring in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999, 2000 and the aforementioned 2006 appearance. Now in her fifth season at the helm of the Pride Volleyball program, it is Kristina Hernandez’ first NCAA appearance as a head coach. Hernandez also coached at Loyola (MD) for four seasons before taking over at Hofstra.
The Pride advanced to the NCAA Tournament with a five-set victory over Delaware on November 18. Hofstra will head into the NCAA Championship riding a seven-match win streak, having won its final four regular season matches and all three of its contests during its run to the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) title.
Florida State (27-3) captured the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) title on November 23 with a four-set win over Miami (FL). The Seminoles are the No. 9 seed in the NCAA Championship and are currently ranked 12th in the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) Division I Coaches Top 25 Poll.
Hofstra and Florida State have met three times in their history, with the Seminoles holding a 3-0 lead in the series. The first meeting occurred in 1984 with FSU winning in five sets, while the Seminoles won the 1991 and 1992 meetings in three sets. The 1992 contest occurred in Hempstead, with the first two matches taking place in Tallahassee.
The five-set match in 1984 lives on in the Pride record books as Hofstra set team records for total blocks (40) and block solos (22) in that contest, with Sue Gades setting individual match records with 13 block solos and 24 total blocks against the Seminoles on November 4, 1984.
CAA Championship MVP Kelsie Wills has led the Pride offense all season as the sophomore outside hitter from New Zealand is tops on the team in kills (567) and kills per set (4.40), while ranking second on the squad with 285 digs and 39 service aces. Junior right side Nikki Kinnier has teamed with Wills to create a dangerous duo for the Pride as she is second on the squad with 419 kills and ranks third with 88 blocks.
The Pride’s best all-around player this season has been senior setter Catalina Charry. The Colombia native has left her mark in all facets as she leads Hofstra with 1,082 assists (8.39 per set), while also totaling 280 digs (third on team), 154 kills (fourth on team), 63 blocks (fifth on team) and 40 service aces (leads team).
Defensively, senior libero Kylee Maneja has punctuated her stellar career with another solid season in her final campaign. The Hawaii native has 533 digs, for an average of 4.13 per set, to lead Hofstra. She also has chipped in with 23 service aces this season.
Kinnier, Charry and Maneja are all closing their careers high on the respective career charts as well. Maneja is far and away the all-time leader in digs at Hofstra as she now has 2,038 heading into the NCAA Tournament. She has already surpassed second place all-time by nearly 400 digs.
Kinnier became the 13th player all-time in program history to reach 1,000 career kills this season and she now has 1,169 kills to rank seventh all-time.
Charry is seventh all-time in school history with 2,296 career assists and she has accomplished that feat in just two seasons with the Pride.
Florida State enters the NCAA Tournament with a five-match win streak, including the four-set home victory over Miami (FL) to clinch a spot in the field of 64.
Four different Seminoles have accumulated over 200 kills this season, led by Fatma Yildirim’s 307. She is joined in that group by Sareea Freeman (253), Olivera Medic (250) and Ashley Neff (236). Medic’s 320 digs ranks second on the team, while Neff leads FSU with 174 blocks and Freeman is second with 107. Yildirim has 280 digs to rank third on the team in that category. FSU has a pair of setters who have seen extensive time this season as Duygu Duzceler leads the way with 638 assists (6.02 per set) and Sarah Wickstrom is next with 607 (5.73 per set). Katie Mosher is tops on the team with 463 digs (4.41 per set).