By Cord Stasolla
The women’s soccer team found itself in the same situation last weekend as it was in the 2005 MAAC Championships, as the Broncs, seeded eighth, faced off against No. 9 seed Manhattan.
Manhattan, bouncing back from a 4-1 defeat Oct. 23 at Rider, walked onto the field ready to play soccer.
“We played well given the circumstances,” said Head Coach Drayson Hounsome, noting the record-breaking heat and humidity in Orlando, Fla. “But Manhattan came out with more energy than us. Having beaten them 4-1 the week before, they were amped up to set the record straight.”
The Jaspers’ Tara Gleason scored the game’s first and only goal just nine minutes into play. After that, both teams threatened but failed to score. Manhattan (8-9-2 overall, 2-5-2 MAAC) attempted 10 shots on goal compared to Rider’s eight.
Scoring remained idle throughout the second half, but Rider (7-11-1 overall, 3-6 MAAC) had one more shot on goal than Manhattan, which had five. Although the Broncs remained aggressive, the Jaspers held them and won the game 1-0.
“The players and coaching staff realistically felt we had a good opportunity to go further in the MAAC Championship, so we were disappointed that we were unable to do so,” said Hounsome.
“Our game on Thursday was tough, and our effort was excellent, but the result was disappointing,” senior co-captain Kate Murphy said. “It’s tough to beat a team twice in a season, let alone twice in one week.”
Manhattan went on to play top-seeded Loyola and lost on penalty kicks (5-4) after the score was tied 1-1 after regulation and overtime. Loyala ended up defeating Niagara 3-2 to win the MAAC Championship.
Despite losing in the first round, the women’s soccer players had no reason to hang their heads as they looked back on their season.
“It was a challenging season blending 12 new players into the program, but the group has really come together well,” said Hounsome. “It was great to improve the way we did on the field, being a dominant force at home, going 6-1, and being the most successful team since 2004.”
After winning more than triple the number of games compared to last year, the team hopes to make another big step next year.
“We will have a very motivated and talented group of players returning, and we are bringing in some talented freshmen, so we will be improving on [our win total] next year,” said Hounsome. “Our freshman class gained a lot of experience this year, which was one of the reasons that we got better as a team as the season went along. They pushed the upperclassmen and that, in turn, improved their games.”
After a very successful career at Rider, playing in 71 games and accumulating 15 points and six goals, two of which were game-winning, senior co-captain Kate Murphy finds herself at the end of her collegiate soccer career.
“It’s a little scary being done with something that has been a part of my life for the past 18 years,” she said. “I’m confident, though, that this team is on the right path to becoming a strong program. We have a lot of young players that had to step up and play big this season. This team has a bright future and I’m proud to be a part of that.”
Rider’s seven wins this season under its second-year head coach is the most the team has had since the Broncs compiled 12 wins in the 2004 season. Another accomplishment credited to the student athletes was the six members from the team named to the MAAC All-Academic team. Seniors Murphy, Natalie Sica and Alison Brody made up half the group while juniors Lauren Musumeci, Kara Perkoski and Alex Post completed it.
As the Broncs look forward to next year, they graduate five seniors, including Brody, who finished her career 13th in all-time scoring at Rider.
“It helps that we leave behind a great junior class full of leaders and players that know how to win, and they know what needs to be done to attain the ultimate goal,” said Murphy.
By Cord Stasolla