By Michael Mack
The field hockey team capped off its phenomenal regular season the way it wanted to: on top. The Broncs defeated NEC foe Lock Haven on Sunday for the regular season conference championship.
Both teams were undefeated in conference play going into the game, but 70 minutes and almost two full overtimes later, the Broncs were conference champs.
The keys to victory for the Broncs were no different than they were all season: strong defense, great goaltending and a timely goal. Senior goaltender Lyndsie Johnson made nine saves and recorded her 10th shutout of the season. As is the norm with this team, Johnson refused to accept much credit for the shutout.
“Our team’s defense has put so much effort into every game we play and sometimes we are tested and other times we are not,” Johnson said. “Recording a 10th shutout in an important game shows that we can do it again in the tournament.”
As impressive as Johnson and the defense were, the team still needed to score to win the game. Who else would be more fitting to step up and score the game-winning goal for the Broncs than the team leader in goals, sophomore Megan Pisani? With 1:35 left in the second overtime, Pisani found the back of the net for the 21st time this season, giving the Broncs the win.
“It was a rush of excitement that hit me as soon as the ball went in the goal,” Pisani said. “Our team has never been happier.”
Pisani didn’t score the goal on her own. Sophomore Virginia Egusquiza had a shot deflected out to freshman Elli LaBar who also had her shot saved. The ball then trickled out to Pisani, whose shot clinched the championship for the Broncs. Pisani’s 21st goal and 46th point tied Rider’s single season records in both statistics.
While the team is happy with its regular season championship, they are certainly not settling.
“It means so much for our team to be regular season champs,” said Johnson fresh off the championship victory. However, this team has only begun to achieve its goals.
“It gives us advantages going into the conference tournament like having our location with our home fans’ support and being undefeated in conference play,” said Johnson.
This team has had a championship on its mind since the beginning of the season, and it’s not the regular season championship. The Broncs are going into the NEC tournament as obvious favorites, but still they don’t show it.
The Broncs’ first tournament game will be against Monmouth.
“We are keenly aware that anything can happen in tournament play,” said Head Coach Lori Hussong. “We have to be at the top of our game to accomplish our goal and we need to take each game one at a time.”
Rider defeated Monmouth 3-1 in their regular season matchup, but they’ll need to avoid falling into the trap of looking ahead to a rematch with Lock Haven. The Broncs take the first step toward their goal on Friday Nov. 6, at 11 a.m. at Mercer County Community College.
By Michael Mack