By David Pavlak
This is part three of a four-part series on the goaltenders participating in Rider Athletics.
It doesn’t matter what sport you are playing, the best defenses build from the back. Professional soccer teams, hockey teams and any other sport involving a goalie make sure to have a solid number one player standing between the posts and deflecting the shots that come his or her way. Finding a number one goaltender isn’t always easy, and it can take many seasons to find someone who can truly handle the pressure.
For the women’s soccer team, it has the luxury of not only having one consistently solid goaltender, but two. Redshirt freshman Danielle Singson and junior Jenn Nichols have led the Broncs in net to a very successful season.
Both goalies had different views of Rider before making their decision on where they would be attending college. However, after seeing the campus and meeting Head Coach Drayson Hounsome, the decision became very clear.
“A lot of things went into my decision to continue playing soccer at Rider,” Nichols said. “It really came down to choosing between Fairfield University and Rider. First of all, Rider has a great business program and a lot of internships that I thought would give me every opportunity to succeed later on in life. When I came to visit Rider, I felt really comfortable on the campus and I felt like I fit in better than at Fairfield. Soccer also had a major impact on my decision. Coach Hounsome made me feel very comfortable and I liked his plan for building the program. I also liked how he saw me fitting into the program.”
Singson has a similar story.
“Coach Hounsome had seen me in multiple games at different showcase tournaments and kept e-mailing me about trying to take a visit to Rider, and I kept putting him off since I wasn’t sure if I wanted to stay that close to home since I only live in New York,” Singson said. “I finally decided to visit Rider and I automatically fell in love with the campus and just everything about this school. I liked the fact that Rider was a small school. The fact that Rider is a Division-I program also was a major requirement for me. When I visited, the girls on the team were so inviting and just made me love the school even more.”
The Broncs are currently 8-4-2 this year, and are off to the best start in the program’s history. Singson starts the first half for the Broncs before Hounsome makes the switch to Nichols in the second half. Sharing time is not something that affects the players’ abilities.
“Splitting time has been working relatively well for us,” Nichols said. “It has its advantages and disadvantages. Playing in the second half, I have the opportunity to watch the first half, see the other team’s strengths and the things that we need to fix, and I am able to implement them when I go in. On the other hand, it can be somewhat difficult to warm up and get mentally focused for the game and then sit for 45 minutes before having to warm up again. Coach told us that his reason for playing us both and splitting time was that we were both performing well in practice.”
Singson’s and Nichols’ statistics this season are impressive. Singson has started all 14 games this season, while Nichols has seen action in 12 games. Singson has a goals against average (GAA) of 0.96, while Nichols has a 1.41 average. Nichols has made more saves then Singson (27-22) and has a higher save percentage at .750 compared to Singson’s .733. With the two goalies’ averages, Rider boasts the third-best GAA in the MAAC with a 1.16. It is behind Marist (0.83) and Fairfield (0.87).
Singson and Nichols have formed a strong relationship on the field together as they work hard to push each other to their peak performance.
“Danielle and I get along on and off the field,” Nichols said. “We spend a lot of time together at practice and at our goalie trainings. There is a competitive nature to fighting for a position, but I think we do a very good job of letting coach make the playing time decision and we leave that competitiveness out of our relationship. We do push each other every day in practice and goalie training and it prevents us from becoming content and stagnant with our performance. It allows us to continually work hard and improve. Ultimately we want the team to win and we want what is best for the team.”
“My relationship with Jenn is pretty good,” she said. “It’s surprising that we get along so well because normally competitors don’t really get along like we do. We help encourage each other and try to push each other to play to the best of our ability.”
Hounsome is currently very content with his goaltender situation.
“Both Jenn and Danielle are very solid keepers,” he said. “When performing at the same level it is hard to select one over the other, so both have been playing a vital role as part of the defensive unit that has led the program to its best start to date. Multiple players play on the field so it is advantageous to have more than one keeper available to play in goal. Sometimes it is a very fine line between winning and losing.”
Both players are excited about where the womens soccer is headed and are prepared to go along for the ride.
“I think coach came into the program four years ago with a clear plan of what he wanted to achieve and with a clear timeline of when he wanted to do it by,” Nichols said. “Every single one of the players, coaching staff, and anyone who has a part in this program has bought into that plan and believes that we can win the MAAC championship.”
Singson is also pleased with the way the soccer program has taken shape under Hounsome’s direction.
“I believe our coach has been a huge factor in the reason for why our program has improved tremendously,” she said. “His coaching ability and his relationship with our team is great. He knows the game extremely well and knows exactly what we need to do in order to beat a team. Since he has been the head coach, he has brought on quality players to the team, which has helped the program to become true contenders for the MAAC championship.”
Even though both players have their own personal goals, they both agreed that the ultimate goal was to walk away with a MAAC championship.
“There is a very bright future for the Rider women’s soccer program,” Nichols said. “We have a legitimate chance of winning the MAAC Championship this year, and I only see the program going up from there. With the personnel and talent that we have on the team, there is no team that we can’t beat. Winning the MAAC and going to nationals is something that we have set our sights on and we know we can do it.”