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Bryan Sends Hofstra to NCAA Second Round

Hempstead — It took over 93 minutes, but junior Sabrina Bryan found the back of the net to give the Hofstra Pride a 1-0 victory over the Loyola-Chicago Ramblers in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Nov. 16 at Hofstra Soccer Stadium. Bryan took a pass from fellow junior Bella Richards, stepped past a defender a took a shot that hit off the right post and bounced in. “The ball was rolling across the [18 yard-line], I knew that as long as Bella [Richards] could get a touch to me, I could touch by the defender and get a clean shot off,” Bryan said.

“It’s hard when you finish 45 minutes like that and start overtime knowing you just played really well for 45 minutes,” Loyola coach Barry Bimbi said. “I thought we kind of took a deep breath and relaxed and let [Bryan] loose and good players do what she did.”

Both teams came in with long unbeaten streaks. For Hofstra, it was at 15 matches going all the way back to a loss at then No. 14 Rutgers. The streak included two overtime victories and two ties. For Loyola, the streak was at a program-record 12 matches, all wins, with only three goals given up in that time. Both teams went without a loss in conference, Hofstra was 9-0-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association while Loyola finished 7-0-0 in the Missouri Valley Conference. It was an evenly matched battle and it showed all the way through.

“I thought it was an awesome NCAA game,” Hofstra coach Simon Riddiough said. “We were fortunate to come out in the end, it could have been anybody’s game.”

While the Pride controlled early on in the first half, with three of Bryan’s six shots coming in the first half. The best chance for Hofstra came in the 17th minute when sophomore Miri Taylor sent a pass to Bryan at the left of the box. With a step on her defender, Bryan got off a good shot but it was shut down by Loyola freshman keeper Grace Droessler. “She’s just a competitor,” Bimbi said of his goaltender. “We’re excited, she’s a freshman, we have three more years with her.”

Loyola pushed back late in the first and into the second. Their best opportunity came in the 65th minute when sophomore Abby Swanson took a low, hard shot toward the left side of the net. Kuzmich made a diving stop, knocking the ball off of the post in the process and it bounced to the middle of the net, right on the line. Hofstra defender Anja Suttner stepped in to clear it and keep the match scoreless.

Hofstra’s defensive play, a staple all season, played a huge role in the match. “We preach defense and you saw that today,” Riddiough said, “You saw a team that bent but didn’t break.” The Pride allowed 11 shots with just four on goal. Freshman keeper Skylar Kuzmich stopped all four shots for her fourth shutout of the season. “First round NCAA, you automatically know it’s going to be a tight game so I knew that I may need to put up that shut out, that may be the difference,”  Kuzmich said. “I knew I needed to be perfect and meticulous about everything I did.”

This was the Pride’s fourth NCAA tournament win in program history, all under Coach Riddiough. 2019 is their second year in a row advancing to the second round of the tournament as well, following a 4-1 upset of No. 22 Boston College last year. They advance to face the No. 1 ranked Stanford University Cardinal in Stanford, California on Nov. 22.

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