Kristina Hernandez, the head coach of the Hofstra women’s volleyball team, has led her squad to an NCAA tournament bid, even with Hurricane Sandy weighing heavy on her mind.
Hernandez, who lived in Long Beach for four years before moving to Atlantic Beach in the spring, has reached out to friends and neighbors in Long Beach whose homes were destroyed by the storm.
“A lot of my friends and Hofstra volleyball alumni live in Long Beach,” said Hernandez, who had lived on Georgia Avenue in the West End, which was hard hit by the storm. “We were down there when it happened. We were busy trying to get in touch with them and helping them to clean up. It’s horrible. My old house was buried in sand."
Hernandez said she was able to find her friends in less than two days using different cell phone services and found that they were all safe, which put her at ease and allowed her to focus on the NCAA volleyball tournament. The Hofstra Pride will play Florida State at 6:30 p.m. on Friday in the regionals on the Florida State campus.
Hernandez helped guide her team to a Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) title and NCAA tournament bid Nov. 18, when the Pride defeated two-time defending CAA champion Delaware in five sets at the Towson Center Arena. With its victory, Hofstra improved its record to 21-13 this season and advanced to the national championship 64-team tournament.
“The team is really excited,” said Hernandez. “They are so energetic. They want to be as aggressive as they can be. We’re really excited to play a nationally-ranked team in Florida State.”
During the storm, she said she lost power in her Atlantic Beach home for about three weeks. “But I still had a house to go back to,” Hernandez said.
She added that her heart goes out to all of those people deeply affected by Hurricane Sandy. She moved from Long Beach because her home was “huge,” and she needed a smaller place to stay. “I know I would have it a lot worse if I were still in Long Beach,” she said.
She said the Hofstra administration allowed her to stay on campus until her electricity was restored.
“I was drained over the whole thing,” she said. “I was tired. I didn’t know where I was going to stay. Our team did a great job. They really pulled together during this tough time. They helped people get their belongings while they still had to prepare for the volleyball matches, which was my responsibility.”
She said she was on the road with the team a portion of that time, which allowed them to focus more on volleyball.
Hernandez is in her fifth season as the head coach at Hofstra, following a four-year stint at Loyola in Maryland.