By Jacob Tiger
For the first time since November of 2018, Rider field hockey dropped consecutive games, falling short in their weekend matchups against Northeast Conference (NEC) rivals Fairfield and Long Island University (LIU).
“Those are the two toughest opponents in the league and every time we play them it’s never an easy game for us,” said Head Coach Lori Hussong after the team took its second loss.
Stagnant against the Stags
With their win on Oct. 8, the Fairfield Stags made a commanding statement to the rest of the NEC, becoming the first team this season to shutout the Broncs. In total, the Broncs were only allowed seven total shots by the Fairfield defense.
“They kind of took us out of our game a little bit in the fact that they were closely marking Julia [Divorra] and Carly [Brosious]. We didn’t do a very good job today,” said Hussong.
A common problem for the Broncs persisted in this game, with the team failing to show up in the first half. They gave up a pair of goals to Fairfield, in addition to not being able to find a goal on offense.
Like previous opponents, Fairfield took advantage of this period of weakness and built a substantial lead.
“We basically didn’t start playing until the second half,” said senior forward Julia Divorra. “We were not awake at all and our passes weren’t that hard to the person, just throwing it to the other team.”
This issue was further compounded by the absence of junior goalkeeper Kaitlyn Tomas, who missed both of Rider’s last two games due to an injury she suffered in practice.
Sophomore goalkeeper Carlee Fulton filled in for Tomas, but her lack of experience was apparent, ultimately surrendering two early goals.
The second half was rather lackluster, with Rider continuing to come up short offensively, being consistently stifled by the Stags.
Fairfield would hold on to their lead and convincingly win the game.
“They basically controlled the whole game. We always know that they are a tough team to play against but it is what it is,” said Divorra.
Fairfield currently sits at second in the NEC behind Rider, so an eventual playoff rematch is certainly feasible.
Hussong said. “We’re just gonna have to learn from this game and the things that we did well and didn’t do well and move forward from here.”
Broncs still ‘not awake’
The last time Rider and LIU met was last spring in the NEC championship game, where the Broncs seemingly scored at will.
Needless to say, there was blood in the water on Oct. 10 and the Sharks were out for revenge, defeating the Broncs 2-1.
In just the third minute of play, LIU fired the ball past Fulton to quickly take the lead.
In the second quarter, LIU would once again break through the Rider defense, extending their lead to 2-0.
“We’ve had so many games this year where we’ve started off not awake, and we’ve had goals scored on us in the first two or three minutes of the game. That’s a lesson we need to learn and we’re learning the hard way right now,” said Hussong. “If we’re not ready to play from the opening whistle, then bad things are going to happen to us.”
However, Divorra would snap the Broncs out of their daze by scoring a much-needed goal with just 27 seconds in the half.
The second half was a much less lopsided affair, with Rider getting their fair share of opportunities, but they were unable to capitalize on any of them.
The Sharks did an excellent job defensively, keeping the high-powered Rider offense at bay long enough to win the game.
It is worth noting that the Sharks only took a total of four shots in the game, with both goals coming on their first two shots.
The Broncs will have a chance to get out of this funk, as they have another pair of games against Bryant on Oct. 15 and Lehigh on Oct. 17.