Best moments of 2015-16

Christian Flath was a key part of Rider's MAAC title.
Christian Flath was a key part of Rider’s MAAC title.

By Brandon Scalea

  1. Teddy Okereafors career night

After starting MAAC play at a dismal 0-5, the men’s basketball team hosted Marist, a team it had dominated in recent years, on Jan. 17. However, the Red Foxes came into Alumni Gym that night and surprised the Broncs, holding a lead for the majority of the game.

With less than two minutes left in regulation, Marist led 69-60, and it was looking like another disappointing finish for Rider. But in one of their best comebacks in recent years, the Broncs battled back to tie the game at 72 and send it to overtime. Graduate guard Teddy Okereafor was virtually unstoppable, dropping a career-high 38 points and hitting the tying layup with 1.2 seconds left. He also broke a MAAC record in the contest, making 25 foul shots.

The game was still tied after one overtime, and in the second frame, it was senior guard Zedric Sadler who came alive as well. He finished the game with 21 points. The Broncs would ultimately put up 102 points in the win, the most they scored since 2008.

  1. Women place second at MAACs

At this year’s MAAC Championships, the women’s swimming and diving team placed second for the 14th time in the last 17 seasons. Along with the great showing as a team, Rider had several individual performances that were impressive.

Senior Erin Westcott placed third in the 200 fly with a time of 2:09.56. Freshman Taylor Stalnaker came in fourth in the 200 back (2:05.82) and sophomore Julianna Runk finished fourth in the 200 breast. The women’s 400 free relay team of Stalnaker, junior Jacquelynn Parker, freshman Leeanna Cass and junior Ariana Palmer finished fifth out of nine teams with a time of 3:35.03.

  1. Chad Walsh earns spot on podium

After winning its first-ever Eastern Wrestling League title and first conference title since 2000, the wrestling team sent six men to the NCAA Championships at Madison Square Garden. Sophomore Chad Walsh, the No. 15 seed at 157, made a historic run for Rider. He placed fifth nationally, earning a spot on the podium and becoming Head Coach Gary Taylor’s 15th All-American.

In the second round, Walsh pulled off one of the biggest upsets of the weekend, downing second-seeded Thomas Gantt of North Carolina State. He then defeated Cody Pack of South Dakota State in a come-from-behind 11-10 win. That victory put him in the national semifinal and earned him All-America honors.

Walsh came up short of wrestling for a national title when he was beaten by Jason Nolf of Penn State, the No. 3 seed, 19-4. As a team, Rider finished 24th in the country.

 

  1. Five straight titles for mens swimming and diving

In any conference and in any sport, you’d be hard-pressed to find a team with as much recent success as the Rider men’s swimming and diving team. At the Burt Flickinger Athletic Center in Buffalo, New York, on Feb. 13, the team made it five consecutive MAAC titles, a run that started in 2012. Since then, the Broncs have also broken five conference and team-relay records.

Sophomore Zack Molloy was named the MAAC Male Swimmer of the Meet by taking three conference gold medals — the 100 free, 200 free and 500 free. In the 200 free, Molloy set a program and conference record with a time of 1:36.87. He was also part of four MAAC and Rider record-setting relay teams — the 200 medley, the 800 free, the 200 free and the 400 free.

Also for the men, junior Matthan Martir led the 400 free relay that won with a time of 2:59.69 as the Broncs earned their fifth relay record of the meet. Junior William Molloy, Zack Molloy and freshman Vincent Gibbons made up the rest of the team.

  1. Men’s soccer takes MAAC crown

Rider started conference play at 0-2, before going on a 6-1-1 tear to earn the second seed in the conference tournament, only behind nationally ranked Monmouth. Convincing wins over Quinnipiac and Siena in the quarterfinal and semifinal, respectively, put the Broncs in the MAAC Championship game in Orlando, Florida, on Nov. 9.

Rider came out on top against No. 22 Monmouth for the first time since 1998 — also the last year in which the Broncs won the MAAC. In a 3-2 victory, the Broncs never trailed against the perennial Hawks. Junior midfielder Matt Fryc scored his first career goal on a header with just 1:46 left in the first half. Sophomore forward Elliot Otmani also put one home early in the second half for a 2-0 lead.

Monmouth battled back, but senior goalkeeper Ryan Baird was strong in the net, making eight saves. The 14th win of the season put the Broncs in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in 16 years, where it took on defending national champion Virginia. In a valiant fight, Rider fell 2-0.

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