Credit: Hofstra Athletics photo

In her eighth season as head coach of Hofstra University women’s volleyball, Emily Mansur is excited to see her players in action. Going into the season, she expected there to be some ups and downs because this team is quite young. Even the team’s juniors, middle blocker Sarah Pierre and outside hitter Zyare Abdul-Rahim, redshirted their freshman year and then played a small amount last spring, so collegiate volleyball is still new to them. The Pride went 6–5 in non-conference play and opened Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) action last weekend 1–1 against the two-time and defending CAA Champions, Towson University.

“It’s a group that has a lot of potential, for sure, a lot for us to build, but they want to be good and they want to win,” said Mansur. “We just need to mature a little bit faster on our decisions.”

Division I women’s volleyball is typically played in the fall. The 2020 season was postponed to the spring of 2021. The team started that spring season with some wins, but then half the team had either positive COVID tests or were exposed to someone with COVID and had to follow quarantine protocols. For the remainder of the season there were only eight players, most playing out of position.

Now, everyone is healthy and it’s full steam ahead. Mansur is nine months pregnant and due in about two weeks, so recently hired associate head coach Hava Davis has become an essential part of the coaching staff.

The team has one fifth-year senior, outside hitter Ana Martinovic, who is taking advantage of the additional year of eligibility granted by the NCAA. There are five freshmen and several sophomores with limited experience. Mansur said this is the first opportunity for Pierre and Abdul-Rahim to step on the court full-time.

“It’s really cool to see,” said Mansur. “Every match, they’re getting a little bit better. There are some ups and downs, but we told them we’re going to get through tough moments so they get a chance to mature and really raise to the level we know they can. On the court, Sarah is number one in blocking in the CAA. Zyare, we know the sky’s the limit. She needs to learn to control her emotions and learn to take charge because we expect a lot from her.”

The team travels to Boston this weekend for two matches against Northeastern University.