By Brian Bohl, Hofstra University Office of Athletic Communications
Scan Brittain Altomare‘s career records and it appears to feature statistics straight from a 1980s NHL almanac. Triple digit total in goals, assists, points and draw controls light up the Hofstra Women’s Lacrosse information guide. With some of the season’s most important games left to play, Altomare already has secured some of the most cherished program records, including all-time marks in points, assists and draw controls.
But the dynasty era Edmonton Oilers-esque numbers aren’t in the forefront of the senior attacker’s mind as the calendar moves to May. The ultimate team goal is in reach as the top-seeded Pride enter the CAA Championship Friday against Towson in the semifinal round. That matchup on Delaware’s campus will feature a Hofstra team that posted the first undefeated CAA regular season (6-0) in program history – and just the third team in 11 years to go undefeated in league regular season play – and will be looking to punch the school’s first ticket to the NCAA Tournament since 2007.
“There’s not much time to think about individual awards,” said Altomare, who has already tallied 118 goals (seventh-most), 126 assists and 244 points along with 197 draw controls. “This tournament means everything. I want to leave Hofstra with a CAA championship and I think this is our year to do it. Everyone has bought in and prepared to do what it takes.”
Third-year Head Coach Shannon Smith has found success in handing the dichotomy between a six-member senior class led by program record-holder Altomare and defender April Iannetta to mesh with an 11-member freshmen group. The combination has provided Hofstra with a sense of urgency from the team’s core that will look to lead the Pride to the national tournament for just the third time since 2001.
“We realize this is our last chance at a conference championship for the senior class and we’re excited because the experience of this run for the young members will help set Hofstra up for success in future years as well,” Iannetta said.
It’s easy to believe in a coach when a historically accomplished veteran player leads the way. Iannetta was an attacking midfielder who posted a 14-goal freshman campaign. But Smith moved Iannetta to defense, which resulted in back-to-back CAA Defensive Player of the Year honors from 2013-14 for the Wantagh, New York native and a first-team All-CAA selection this year.
Iannetta helped Hofstra reach the 2013 CAA Championship finals in her first season as a defender. The individual and team success of trusting the coach’s move not only brought out the full potential in a talented player but also served as a prime example of the positive results for both player and the team if they trusted the plan.
“Coach Smith knows how to get the best out of players,” Iannetta said. “If she sees something in you, she lets you know and shows you how to get better to reach your potential. She teaches us so much about the game and she knows what it’s like as a player. She understands the pressure we’re under and she knows how to teach us without just talking at us.”
Smith, who was named the CAA Coach of the Year after her team ran the table against the other six league foes, said she’s learned from her players and is looking to help guide them to the next step.
“It’s been fun to coach this team, they’ve worked hard to put Hofstra back on the map,” Smith said. “As much as I’ve been able to see them grown, they’ve been able to see me grow as a coach.”
Altomare became the first-ever player from Hofstra to earn CAA Player of the Year award since the Pride joined the league in 2002. The Wolfsville, Maryland native posted 78 points on 39 goals and 39 assists this regular season, while also totaling 90 draw controls and nine ground balls. Her point, assist and draw control totals are all single season program records and she leads Hofstra this season in goals, assists, points and draw controls. She was the first Hofstra player to receive her conference’s player of the year award since Stephanie Clarke was the North Atlantic Conference Player of the Year in 1996.
Smith can relate to the idea of a player assaulting the record books. As a three-time national champion at Northwestern, Smith won two national tournament MVP awards and set Northwestern’s all-time and single-season goals records.
“After your career is over, you take a deep break and look at what you did and I think Brittain will do the same thing,” Smith said. “I’ve been in that position of breaking records and you get a lot of questions leading up to it. I talked to Brittain and told her to not worry about it, but I gave her a heads-up on the records just so she knew. We worked at it together and it’s been fun. It’s been fun to watch this entire senior class grow.”
This marks Altomare and Iannetta’s third straight appearance on the All-CAA First Team. Along with fellow seniors Kaitlin Ayres, Sam Lenox, Abby Wilson and goalie Kelsey Gregerson, the Pride have an experience core that have been through a 2012 CAA semifinal run and an appearance in the championship game against Towson two years ago.
“There’s no drama or pride getting in the way,” Altomare said. “It’s always been a close group on-and-off the field and we’re all doing everything we can to help give this team what it needs to be successful.”
This season, the sextet once again led the charge in an emotional game against the Tigers, who are the three-time defending conference champions. The Pride defeated the Tigers last month in a double-overtime road game that saw a Towson goal overturned in extra time. For Hofstra, taking the next step means once again facing a motivated; playoff-tested foe.
“To make it to the CAA final and be so close was a good learning experience, but this year is our year to do it and be successful,” Altomare said. “We have to come out and be prepared for anything. We’re not the underdogs and Towson’s going to be coming out for blood.
“We’ve been competitive with a young team, but (the new players) have bought in and have made an impact. They are playing like upperclassmen and they don’t get scared out there. We don’t change our approach too much based upon the opponent.”
A challenging schedule that saw five games against nationally ranked opponents has the 11-5 Pride in contention for an at-large selection as well. Smith pointed to the 12-11 road loss to No. 18 Ohio State in Columbus as one of the season’s pivotal moments.
“This team has the mold; that competitive edge and the fire we wanted to instill,” Smith said. “The seniors really believe in what we’re doing here and they’ve changed the culture. It’s been great watching them over the years and how they’ve changed this program for the better.”