By Brandon Scalea
In an academic year that was a roller coaster ride to say the least, school spirit and positive morale seemed hard to come by. But in 2015-16, Rider Athletics gave us plenty to get our minds off major cuts and the stress of everyday college life.
We made a list of Rider’s top 10 greatest moments from 2015-16. This week we will count down from 10 to 6. The top five will appear in our final issue of the semester on April 27.
10. Field hockey starts season 4-0
Although the field hockey team ultimately came up short in the four-team MAAC playoff, it started the season on a roll. Following wins against Lehigh, Georgetown and Columbia to start the year, the Broncs headed up to Vermont on Sept. 6 for a big road test.
The result was the biggest offensive output in three years, as Rider put up six goals. Sophomore forward Allison Baligian and freshman forward Angie Price combined for four goals in the rout.
The Broncs would finish the season at 12-7 and qualify for the MAAC playoffs for the 16th consecutive season under Head Coach Lori Hussong.
9. Men’s soccer ties Monmouth under the lights
Oct. 7 was the turning point of the season for men’s soccer. The Broncs, sitting at 1-2 in MAAC play, hosted in-state rival Monmouth with a chance to prove where they really stood in the conference. In front of over 600 fans at Ben Cohen Field, Rider came from behind and took the undefeated Hawks down to the wire.
After surrendering a goal in the 53rd minute, the Broncs trailed 1-0. Just nine minutes later, sophomore forward Jose Aguinaga scored on a header off a picture-perfect pass from junior midfielder Adrien Huss. The tying goal brought the large crowd to its feet and Monmouth was never able to answer. After two overtime periods, the game ended in a 1-1 tie.
The Broncs would go on to win eight of their last 10, clinch the MAAC title for the first time in 15 years and beat Monmouth in the championship game in Orlando, Florida.
8. Women’s basketball shocks Siena
In an eight-win season that did not have many positives, the women’s basketball team was able to find several against Siena on Jan. 17. Just nine days earlier, the Saints had dominated the Broncs by 21 points in Albany, New York. Trapped in the midst of an eight-game losing streak, Rider took advantage of its home crowd and an ESPN3 audience, handing Siena its first MAAC loss of the year.
In the 70-58 win, sophomore forward C’quoya Haughton picked up a career-high 16 points and grabbed six rebounds. Clinging to just a six-point advantage in the the final moments, junior center Julia Duggan had four big points to put the game out of reach.
However, Rider and Siena would meet for a third time in the first round of the MAAC Tournament, and the Saints escaped with an overtime victory.
7. Heather Maierle’s penalty kick
After a 9-6-1 regular season, the women’s soccer team won the right to host the first round of the 2015 conference tournament. Facing fifth-seeded Niagara on Oct. 31, the defending MAAC champion Rider took a 1-0 lead just before the first half ended.
In the second half, the Purple Eagles threatened to get on the board — that is, until junior back Heather Maierle was taken down in the box and handed a penalty kick. In front of 200 fans braving the cold, the all-MAAC defender put home the free kick to give the Broncs a two-goal edge.
Although junior goalkeeper Bethany-May Howard allowed her first goal of the season at home during the game, Rider cruised to a 4-1 win and advanced to the semifinal for the third straight year.
6. Baseball walks-off against Rutgers
In any sport, Rutgers is going to be a school that people put on a pedestal in New Jersey. But in its home opener on March 23, Rider was not going to be little brother to anyone. In one of the most bizarre and exciting finishes in Sonny Pittaro Field history, the Broncs entered the bottom of the ninth inning to pick up a huge win trailing 2-1.
Junior catcher Lee Lipinski led off with his second double of the game. Freshman catcher Jack Finn came in to pinch run. Junior first baseman Tyler Kaiser doubled for the Broncs in the next at-bat, but Finn advanced only one base. The next batter was junior third baseman Mike Volaski. He sent a towering fly ball to center field that was caught in the warning track.
Tagging up was Finn to tie the game, but he wasn’t alone. Kaiser rounded third without hesitation and didn’t stop until he was mobbed by his teammates.