By Josh Veltrie
Both the field hockey and women’s soccer teams are in their respective conference championship tournaments, but the paths these two teams took could not have been more different.
Field hockey came into the season as the overwhelming favorite and have had a season of streaks: three-game winning streak followed by a three-game losing streak and the Broncs have just finished the regular season on an impressive eleven-game winning streak. They head into the NEC Championships as the one seed and find themselves in a similar position to last year when they were the one seed and got bounced in the first round.
The women’s soccer team started off the season pretty well but struggled as it entered MAAC play, winning only one of its first four games and putting the Broncs in a hole early. They put together a resilient comeback, winning four of their last five games including the big one — a win over Loyola to put the Broncs in position to make the playoffs. They finished in a three-way tie for fourth place with Niagara and Loyola but held the tie-breaker over both teams. Just to put their last game against Loyola into a little perspective, Rider had to win that game to even have a chance at making the playoffs and the Broncs had never beaten Loyola ever.
So now that both teams are in the playoffs, most people would think that field hockey has the easier road; however, that might not be the case. Yes, the team is riding an eleven-game winning streak, dominating almost every one of its conference games going into the postseason, but all of the pressure is on the Broncs to win. Hopefully this team learned from last year’s defeat and will not let the pressure get to them.
Women’s soccer is in the ideal position though. Look at the very latest example of getting into the playoffs on the very last day of the regular season — the San Francisco Giants in the MLB. The World Series Champs rode that momentum of making the postseason dramatically and ran with it. There is no pressure on the women’s soccer team to win it all; the Broncs will be the underdog in every game and that is the perfect position to be in because that means they will play loose and have fun, the way sports are meant to be played.
Hopefully field hockey handles the pressure and women’s soccer plays the underdog card and Rider can have two conference champions in the fall, something that doesn’t happen too often.