By Carlos Toro
Rider Athletics has enjoyed a historic 2016-17 season that saw multiple sports win championships, a legendary head coach retire and the school lead the conference in the MAAC Commissioner’s Cup standings.
We made a list of Rider’s top 10 greatest moments from 2016-17. This week, we will count down from 10 to six. The top five will appear in our final issue of the semester on April 26.
10. Women’s tennis’ resurgence
Largely lost in the shuffle in the conference, the women’s tennis team has been slowly coming together to have its best season in over a decade. Led by the duo of sophomore Vanessa Canda and freshman Cyd Melendez, Rider has won seven games this year.
Even though it’s still early to be thinking of any conference title, the improvement bodes well for the future of the program. Several sports have seen vast improvement, and tennis looks to be on the cusp of being the next one to succeed.
9. Men’s basketball’s wild shootout
The men’s basketball team had an up-and-down season, but the end of the conference season brought a lot of drama, as the Broncs tried to secure a first-round bye in the MAAC Tournament.
After losing to Iona and Monmouth at home on Feb. 3 and 6, respectively, the Broncs were in danger of losing every game in that homestand when they faced Quinnipiac on Feb. 11. What followed was one of the highest scoring Rider basketball games in recent memory.
Led by senior guard Jimmie Taylor’s career-high 37 points, Rider outlasted Quinnipiac 112-107 in the Broncs’ highest scoring game since 1996. It was an incredibly exciting game that had the fans in Alumni Gym on their feet for the majority of the last few minutes as the Broncs ended their losing streak.
8. Baseball walks off against Niagara
Whether this is simply a case of recency bias or not, the baseball team’s home series sweep of Niagara from April 14 -15 has been the highlight of the Broncs’ season thus far.
Coming off a sweep against St. Peter’s — a team that has yet to win a game this season — and a disastrous 14-7 loss to Wagner, questions were abound as to whether or not this team could hang with the best teams in the conference.
What resulted was a series that saw all three games decided by one run and two of those wins coming in walk-off fashion. Senior Dalton Mayberry hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the ninth inning in the series-opening win against the Purple Eagles — who were first in the conference standings before the series against Rider — and a walk-off hit in the bottom of the 12th inning in the final game of the series.
After starting MAAC play 1-4, the series sweep put the Broncs in a great position to qualify for the MAAC Tournament for the first time since 2015.
7. Gary Taylor’s final home meet
The story of Rider’s wrestling program can’t be told without former Head Coach Gary Taylor. One of college wrestling’s greatest coaches, Taylor had turned a regional program still in its infancy into a perennial powerhouse wherever it competed.
In his final home dual meet on Feb. 18, Rider faced Maryland from the Big 10 Conference and was trailing by 12 points early in the contest. It took a near-herculean effort to make a come-from-behind 23-20 win. The win was Taylor’s 442nd dual-meet win as Rider’s head coach, good for third-most in NCAA Division I history.
Taylor got a standing ovation before the dual meet and Rider held a ceremony honoring him. It was the last time the Rider faithful would ever see the legendary coach on the sidelines at Alumni Gym.
6. Swimming and Diving wins MAAC
Not to take anything for granted, Rider’s swimming and diving team is a dynasty in the MAAC. The men’s team clinched its sixth consecutive conference title on Feb. 11.
For the second straight year, junior Zack Molloy was awarded MAAC Most Outstanding Swimmer of the Meet and Head Coach Stephen Fletcher won MAAC Men’s Swimming Coach of the Year. A trio of freshmen also picked up accolades as Justin Carey and Natalie Carter both honored as the MAAC Men’s and Women’s Rookie Swimmer of the Meet. Diver Meg Tomayko was named the MAAC Women’s Diving Rookie of the Meet.
Fletcher created a winning culture that has no intention to stop anytime soon and the Broncs look to be the favorite to win their seventh straight men’s conference title.