After taking a year off from the Northeast Conference (NEC) Championship game, Rider’s field hockey team advanced past Sacred Heart but fell to defending champion Lock Haven in the final showdown.
For the seventh time in eight years, the No. 2 seeded Broncs breezed past the semi-finals, overtaking No. 3 seed Sacred Heart 3-1.
“We were so proud of the way the team played,” said Head Coach Lori Hussong. “We really feel that we improved from the beginning to the end of our season and that their hard work paid off in the end.”
In the semi-finals, senior Steph Walker put the Broncs on the board early in the game, completing her scoring career with 36 goals. Sacred Heart later came out in the second half to tie the game at one.
Freshman Amanda Baretta broke the tie with her third goal of the season with 15:23 left. Junior Tricia Crotty added one more to the Bronc’s tally to ensure a Rider win.
Senior goalie Jen LoCastro, who was named NEC goal keeper of the year, made two saves in her 11th win of the season. Rider outshot Sacred Heart 13-6 and held a 6-5 penalty corner advantage over the Pioneers.
The Broncs moved on to their last game of the season with a 3-1 loss to top-seeded Lock Haven, who knocked Rider out of the tournament last season.
Crotty gave Rider its only goal of the game 26:40 into the first half, giving the Broncs a 1-0 lead. Lock Haven answered with a goal to tie the game before going into the half. The Lady Eagles came out in the second half to put two more on the board and claim victory.
LoCastro made six saves as Lock Haven outshot Rider 18-1 with a 7-0 corner advantage.
Rider is the only NEC team to have reached the playoffs eight years in a row and the only team to make it to the finals seven times out of those eight years.
“We feel that it’s a testament to the pride and high standards that we hold each team that we have had here at Rider the past eight seasons to,” Hussong said. “It’s easy to find reasons and excuses for failure but it’s unique to find a way to win against the odds.”
Walker was named a First Team All-NEC Forward while finishing as the sixth highest scorer at Rider. Crotty was honored as a Second Team All-NEC forward, with 10 goals for the season, 32 in her career and an eighth spot in Rider’s all-time high scorers.
“We feel like this year’s team over-achieved,” Hussong said. “We were picked to finish fourth in the conference and ended up with a 6-1 conference record placing us in second place behind Lock Haven. Our team really came together and fought through the injuries and adversity and still managed to play our best hockey at the end of the season. Our players learned that hard work and giving your best effort is the main ingredient to success.”