By Michael O’Brien
As the students are currently enjoying their winter break and the beginning of 2012, the Rider women’s basketball team has been hard at work as MAAC play has begun. So far, the Broncs and Head Coach Lynn Milligan have impressed not only the loyal fans who attend the games but also the critics who picked Rider to finish near the bottom of the MAAC for the third year in a row.
Coming off of an outstanding 8-4 non-conference record, the Broncs ventured to take on Manhattan and though they played tough, it wasn’t enough to overcome the Jaspers as Rider fell, 59-45.
There was a bright spot for the Broncs as they played three straight games this past week in Alumni Gym, which started with a win over Niagara, 60-53.
Sophomore MyNeshia McKenzie continued her great play with her sixth double-double of the season. On top of that, she was named Rider’s Female Athlete of the Month for December and is currently 15th in the nation in rebounds, averaging nearly 11 per game.
Rider quickly ran into a buzz saw on Saturday, better known as the six-time defending MAAC Champions, Marist. The Broncs were blown out handily, losing 82-56.
With only two days to prepare for Loyola (MD), the Broncs came out determined to forget about Saturday and move on with the season. In front of 500-plus screaming fans on NCAA Kid’s Day Out, the crowd helped motivate the Broncs to a well-earned 67-61 victory over the Greyhounds.
Rider never trailed during the game. The star during the win was junior Caitlin Bopp who missed a few games last month with a foot injury, but returned to regular form. She led the team with 18 points and recorded her second double-double of the year.
Senior Ali Heller also played a key role in the victory, draining four three-pointers. Fellow senior Alyssa Parsons sank three clutch foul shots in the final minute to hold off a late Loyola comeback.
The Broncs’ current record of 10-5 is the best since the 1993-94 season. With conference play still in the early stages, there are still many challenges awaiting the Broncs. However, this team is playing with more determination and teamwork, something that has not been seen in a long time.
The Broncs hope to continue their good fortune on Friday at Iona and versus Saint Peter’s at Alumni Gym this Sunday afternoon.