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Sabrina Bryan elevates her game to earn All-American honors at Hofstra

Photo courtesy Hofstra University athletics

Coming from Western Pennsylvania, after an impressive scholastic and youth soccer career filled with numerous successes and positive experiences, Sabrina Bryan chartered onto new waters when she began her Division I college experience at Hofstra University on Long Island in 2017.

She knew it wasn’t going to be easy.

Bryan embraced the challenges that came her way, and quickly grew as a person and as a player through her first three years, thriving at the next level to become what her coach Simon Riddiough described as a ‘foundational’ player for the Hofstra program..

Bryan’s scoring instincts and confidence were on full display in the NCAA Division I Women’s Soccer tournament first round in November when Hofstra hosted its first-ever home playoff match, in a scoreless affair against Loyola-Chicago that extended into extra time.

“We intercepted a pass. We connected three or four passes and I knew if the ball got to me, I could beat the defender that was on me. I could tell she was out of position, and wasn’t really balanced right. I knew I could also do a little move to get her even more off balance. I was able to take a touch and get around her, and was pretty much alone,” Bryan said.

“And that was the game-winner.”

“I wasn’t sure it was going in. I knew it was close. Probably hit the post,” Bryan said. “Once I saw the ball cross the line, I was ecstatic.  It was huge moment for Hofstra soccer, and that video would be all over.  We deserved that win.”

With that win, on its home turf, the Pride advanced to a second round of the NCAA Division I tournament, where they would lose to eventual champion, Stanford.

From Hofstra University athletics department. Photo credit: Lee Weismann

In each of Bryan’s three years, and for the fifth time overall, the Pride has qualified for the NCAA’s second round.

“She’s realized how tremendous a player she is and how influential she is for our team.,” Riddiough said in an interview with Newsday after that dramatic win. “Her work ethic is off the charts. “She’s a humble, very humble, superstar. And when you’ve got that kind of effort from the superstar players, the rest of the team just get carried along with the wave.”

Bryan is playing for a coach who has embraced her talents and leadership but also pushed her to take her game to an even higher level.

“He does an amazing job. Knows how to get the best out of players and the best out of the team,” Bryan added. “I’ve realized that over the years, my confidence has grown. When the team relies on me, I need to step up, and help them out. My work rate this past year has been better than previous years. I know that gives the team the best chance of winning.”

The native of Cecil, PA, Bryan was a key player in helping lead Canon-McMillan to a PIAA title in her senior season, and was an integral part of one of the first Riverhounds Developmental Academy graduating classes, one that really made a splash, winning the U16 Southeast Regional championship and a spot in the US Club Soccer National Semifinals in 2015,

Bryan is very fond of her experience with the Riverhounds Academy.

“They really helped preparing for college. They helped me for many years — on the field, off the field, in the weight room,” Bryan said. “They created an environment where I would be around the best players in Pittsburgh. Have the best training — and being there everyday with each other, we challenged each other to get better.”

Despite everything she accomplished as a youngster, it was a whole new experience for her at the college level.

“College soccer was definitely a wake up call. Everyone brings a lot of qualities, What was interesting at first, was to see how much I had to adapt to stand out,” Bryan explained. “After my freshman year, I also realized how much harder I had to work to prepare for the upcoming season.”

While her role on the field has been primarily as a forward, she’s played some time as an attacking midfielder, and for a three-game stint her sophomore season, after injuries to a teammate, she showed her versatility by dropping to left back.

Make no mistake, the former Canon-Mac goal tallying whiz has become the Pride’s primary scoring catalyst. She has now been climbing the ranks of Hofstra’s women’s soccer’s offensive record books after completing her junior season which she not only earned an elusive spot on United Soccer Coaches All-America third team, but also on the All-East Region first team, and was honored as Colonial Athletic Association’s Attacking Player of the Year.

This past season, Bryan started and played in all 22 matches for the Pride, registering 11 goals and 10 assists for her second-straight 30+ point season (32 points). Bryan ranked second on the team and in the CAA in goals, assists and points, while finishing 21st in the nation in total assists. Her assist total is tied for the fourth-most in program history and point total finished as the sixth-highest amount in program history. She tallied 93 shots (4.27/game) and 42 shots on goal which ranked first in the conference in both categories, and ranked 18th nationally in shots and 21st in shots per game

Carrying All-American credentials, Bryan will enter her senior season tied for eighth at Hofstra with 26 career goals and seventh all-time in points with 68.

When addressing what’s left to accomplish at Hofstra, Bryan isn’t thinking about herself or her many individual accomplishments or climbing up in the record books. Her focus is unified with her fellow seniors who she’s been with four years, who together have elevated the program.

“We want four-peat of CAA. End on high note. Our goal all along was to get to the third round. This year, we ran into Stanford, who won the National Championship,” Bryan said. “They were coming off 15-0 win in the first round. We were able to hold them to 1-0 at half, that was amazing. That’s something we could be proud of. If we could get to the third round next year, that would mean a lot for Hofstra soccer.”

Bryan just wrapped up finals week — and always enjoys coming back to Western Pennsylvania when she’s on break, where she enjoys reconnecting with her family and those from her youth career.

“My family has always been incredibly supportive. It’s not easy to go to school far away, but they’ve always been there for me,” Bryan said. “And I stay in touch with a lot of my Riverhounds’ teammates, and we try to get together when we’re all back. I enjoy getting texts from my former coaches, letting me know how proud they are. It’s great to have that kind of support.”

When looking back at this point, and when asked about what kind of advice she’d give aspiring young, talented female soccer players, Bryan offers some good insights.

“It’s good to look everywhere, give yourself a chance to find best fit. There’s a whole world of soccer out there. It’s nice to go further away to see different playing levels.” Bryan said. “From the moment I stepped foot at Hofstra, that’s where I knew I wanted to be.”

Sabrina Bryan and her Canon-Mac teammates won the PIAA title in November 2016 (PSR File photo)

More stats on Sabrina Bryan

…Recorded at least one point in 11-straight matches spanning from Elon (9/29) to Loyola Chicago (11/16), recording 26 of her 32 points during that stretch (nine goals and eight assists)…Tallied five games with three or more points including Fordham on 9/1 (one goal, one assist), Elon on 9/29 (two goals), Delaware on 10/13 (one goal, one assist), Elon in the CAA Tournament on 11/3 (two goals), James Madison on 11/9 in the CAA Tournament (one goal, two assists)…Connected on three game-winning goals (Elon on 9/29, James Madison on 10/10, and Loyola Chicago in the NCAA First Round in overtime (11/16)…Named the CAA Offensive Player of the Week and to the Top Drawer Soccer Team of the Week on 10/14.

John Krysinsky has covered soccer and other sports for many years for various publications and media outlets. He is also author of 'Miracle on the Mon' -- a book about the Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, which chronicles the club, particularly the early years of Highmark Stadium with the narrative leading up to and centered around a remarkable match that helped provide a spark for the franchise. John has covered sports for Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, DK Pittsburgh Sports, Pittsburgh Sports Report, has served as color commentator on Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC broadcasts, and worked with OPTA Stats and broadcast teams for US Open Cup and International Champions Cup matches held in the US. Krysinsky also served as the Head Men’s Soccer Coach at his alma mater, Point Park University, where he led the Pioneers to the first-ever winning seasons and playoff berths (1996-98); head coach of North Catholic boys (2007-08), associate head coach of Shady Side Academy boys (2009-2014).

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