By Carolo Pascale and Jacob Tiger
A season plagued by injuries and difficulty ends for Rider women’s soccer as it drops its Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) quarterfinals match against Monmouth 3-1 on Oct. 31. Just days prior, the Broncs barely squeaked into the playoffs for the ninth straight season, after a 2-0 loss to Iona on Oct. 27.
In the final game of the regular season, the Broncs traveled up to Iona on Oct. 27 to take on the Gaels in a do-or-die scenario. If the Broncs won, they were in the playoffs, if they tied they were in, but if they lost, they needed Manhattan to lose its final game of the season to force a tiebreaker.
Rider, running on an already depleted squad, lost 2-0, putting their playoff fates in the hands of the Jaspers, as they took on Monmouth.
“Iona had the same number of shots and scored two goals. That is what we need to do. Not get more shots off but better execute the shots we take,” said Head Coach Drayson Hounsome.
The first Iona goal came in the ninth minute of the match, another early goal allowed by the Broncs this season.
“Sometimes we take a while to grow into the game and we just have to work on keeping our concentration in the early part of the game,” said Broncs junior midfielder Karagh Tait.
The second Gaels goal came in the final minute of the match as Rider was pressing hard to try and tie the game.
Since the Broncs lost, their attention turned to the Manhattan game against Monmouth. When the final score showed a 3-1 Monmouth victory, the Broncs knew they had made it to the postseason, but just by the skin of their teeth.
“Character and a little bit of luck. Given all the adversity, illnesses and players lost to injury, I am really proud of how this group has stayed together to qualify for the playoffs,” said Hounsome.
This is the 11th time that Hounsome has guided the Broncs to the playoffs in 14 seasons as head coach, including an ongoing nine-year streak.
“It is nice to be able to say we are one of only two teams to make the playoffs every year since 2013 and it is nice for the players to be playing post-season soccer,” Hounsome said.
Looking to the MAAC Quarterfinals on Halloween afternoon, Rider faces off against the No.1 seed Monmouth Hawks.
“Despite our challenges in terms of squad size, injuries and illnesses we have competed hard in every game this season,” said Hounsome,” We just need to learn from every experience on the journey and create a little magic on Sunday.”
“Character to never quit”
On Oct. 31, just days after they aided the Broncs into the playoffs, Monmouth eliminated Rider with swift domination, winning 3-1 despite Rider’s best effort.
“We just had some breakdowns and Monmouth, being a good team with a lot of depth, [was] able to punish us on their opportunities,” said Hounsome.
The first of the Hawks’ three goals came in the 38th minute, after a Rider defender slipped, setting up an easy goal for Monmouth.
Then, in the 52nd and 61st minutes, the Hawks punched two more in, giving them a comfortable three-goal cushion.
Graduate student midfielder Cameron Santers was able to get the Broncs on the board in the 77th minute, but the game was out of reach and Rider’s season concluded in West Long Branch.
But after a wild season of injuries and even illness, Rider’s setbacks were too much to overcome, losing 3-1.
A proud Hounsome said “Despite the disadvantages we face in every game and the adversity with injuries and illnesses during the season, the team showed tremendous character to never quit, keep focussed on the process and support each other.”