Senior Triumvirate Will Pace Pride


Feb. 14, 2007

By Matt Chaprales

Special to


It's a chilly afternoon in Hempstead, N.Y., but the Hofstra women's lacrosse team is only feeling the heat.


"Get angry, blue!" yells a midfielder wearing No. 25.


With those words an already charged practice is turned up another notch. The team is working on offensive sets, honing its attack through spot-scrimmages interspersed with brief respites for points of emphasis from coach Abby Morgan.


Meanwhile, No. 25, better known as Casey McGrath, continues to amp up her unit throughout the drills.


McGrath is one of three senior anchors on this Hofstra squad, along with Kimberly Hillier and Becky Thorn. All have reputations that precede them.


Thorn is an All-American midfielder who led the Pride in scoring in 2005. Hillier, an All-American herself, tied a school record with 73 points in 2006 from the attack position. And McGrath led the team with 50 goals scored last year.


Each warrants the title of superstar, but none seek the spotlight that accompanies it. They understand that as a triumvirate their potential is limitless, which makes this season, their last together, all the more intriguing.


"It's going to be very difficult to have the top three defenders guard all three of us plus the rest of our attack," says Thorn. "Hopefully something excellent comes out of it, being the trio up top."


While that trio will undoubtedly form a prolific scoring attack, there are a few battles to be fought before they take the field on Feb. 25 at Loyola College, beginning with those of the body. Hillier is in the process of rehabbing a slight fracture in her left ankle. Thorn's situation is a more delicate matter. She's dealt off and on with a lower back injury that is currently restricting her to partial drills in practice. The injury is not of a serious nature.


As recently as last year, though, the ailment threatened to end her collegiate career. In a practice before Hofstra's fourth game, Thorn seriously aggravated her back, and it was evident that she would have to be sidelined for a significant period of time. Fortunately, she just barely made the cutoff for redshirt eligibility and received a medical redshirt, allowing her to put her senior season on ice, as opposed to permanent hiatus.


It was a fortuitous circumstance for all, as Thorn assumed the role of an additional coach on the sidelines, while Hillier and McGrath led the Pride to its second consecutive Colonial Athletic Association championship game.


"It was kind of a blessing in disguise and I think sitting out for a season, it changes someone, and it without a doubt changed Becky into a much more composed player and person," Coach Morgan believes.


For Hillier, Thorn's absence was a shock far before it was a blessing.


"When I found out Becky wasn't playing I was a mess. I thought I wouldn't be able to step on the field without her," Hillier explains. "They say everything happens for a reason."


That adage is shared by many on this team, and justifiably so. After all, they lost a leader, as well as their first four games of the 2006 season, and still rebounded to fall only a few plays short of the CAA title and an automatic bid in the NCAA tournament.


Now, with the focus squarely on this season, the goals have become simplified.


"I just think that this is our year," says Hillier. "If there's a year we're going to win a championship it's this year."


"We, without a doubt, are expecting great things from this group," adds Morgan.


As evidenced, the confidence starts at the top, and permeates through the ranks.  Winning in the face of adversity breeds optimism, and optimism in turn builds confidence.


But it's more than just confidence that this team embodies.  They can sense they are on the cusp of something great, and are willing to accept the expectations that go hand in hand.  After coming so close the last two seasons they know they have the talent and coaching to achieve their goals.


As if that's not enough, they may also have a few vendettas to settle. After dropping the 2006 CAA championship to James Madison, Hofstra lost its coach, Shelley Klaes-Bawcombe. Her destination was none other than JMU, where she took over the head coaching duties of the Pride's most heated adversary.  Morgan, after three years as an assistant, was then promoted to head coach of the Hofstra program.


Losing a championship to a rival and then losing a head coach to the same program can be a humbling experience. But everything happens for a reason, right?


"JMU is blessed with a good coach now, but I have full confidence in Abby," says an unwavering Hillier.


Once again the confidence stems from continuity. Morgan played a major role in shaping players like Hillier, Thorn, and McGrath, as her career at Hofstra has coincided with theirs. Over the last three years they've progressed and persevered together, so it's fitting that now they have the opportunity to pursue a championship, together. 


Back at a cold and overcast preseason practice, it becomes apparent that the fiery energy being exuded by McGrath is an early battle-cry; a way of acknowledging that talent by itself is not always enough to obtain desired ends. Sometimes it takes a little extra passion, maybe even a shred of disdain, to ultimately fuel a champion.


"Sports for me are about energy and emotion and you get that tingly feeling when you're around this group because they're special and they foster that energy," says Morgan. 


"We are poised and ready."



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