By Carlos Toro
The women’s soccer team took on conference-rival Quinnipiac at home on Sept. 17 in the first MAAC contest of the season in a game of the conference’s best two offenses and came out victorious.
Rider (4-2-2, 1-0 MAAC) defeated the Bobcats 2-1 with a game-winning goal from freshman midfielder Sofia Soares with 20 minutes remaining, making it four straight without a loss.
Head Coach Drayson Hounsome said that it was imperative for his team to start the conference season off right.
“It does [feel good being 1-0 in MAAC play],” Hounsome said. “They were the top team in the MAAC in wins. We knew that getting the three points was the most important thing. They caught us in a counterattack to get back in it and we responded well to get that winning goal.”
The Bobcats started the game firing shots from the get-go, taking their first shot on goal just 35 seconds into the game, but it was saved by senior goalkeeper Bethany-May Howard.
The Broncs got on the board early with a goal. Senior forward Caroline Healy scored on her own in the 20th minute.
Hounsome said that he felt that the team fared well against a Quinnipiac squad (4-3-1, 1-0 MAAC) that was shut out at home against Rider last season. The Bobcats came into the game with the most non-conference wins in the season as well.
“We played really well in the first half, controlled the tempo,” Hounsome said. “As always, teams always give you more in the second half. I’m really happy to get three points.”
Quinnipiac responded almost 15 minutes into the second half when sophomore defenseman Katrina Friedman scored thanks to an assist from sophomore midfielder Nadya Gill and freshman forward Ally Grunstein.
Rider also got some help with the return of redshirt junior forward Michelle Iacono. Iacono did not play in the last couple of games because of an injury and assisted on the Broncs’ game winning goal in the 70th minute. Iacono came off the bench in the second half and crossed the ball to Soares, and she made the finish.
Iacono said that she enjoyed being back on the field. While spending time on the bench, Iacono said that she enjoyed cheering on the team even though she couldn’t play.
“It felt great playing out there,” Iacono said. “Sitting out is always tough, but being able to watch the girls out there play and succeed and cheer them is important, I believe. Our bench is always cheering them on.”
Quinnipiac had a chance to send the game into overtime, but Grunstein’s shot in the 88th minute went wide. It was the last shot taken by either team as the Broncs left Ben Cohen Field victorious.
In a battle of two of the conference’s best offenses, both Rider and Quinnipiac had plenty of shot opportunities to score goals. Overall, both teams each had 14 shots taken in the game.
Howard made seven saves to get the win. She now ranks in the top 25 in the nation in saves made. It was the second season in a row that the Broncs earned their first conference win against the Bobcats.
Rider is in the midst of a much-deserved break. The team will have a week to rest before it hosts Canisius (3-4, 1-0 MAAC) on Sept. 24. Before the game against Quinnipiac, Rider’s last four games went to overtime, with the last three games heading to double overtime. Rider had a 1-1-2 record in that span.
The Broncs also have their first conference road test of the season when they travel to Jersey City and take on Saint Peter’s (1-4-1, 0-0 MAAC) on Sept. 27. Rider had not lost any of its two road games played this season.
With the return of Iacono, Hounsome said that this team is healthy and that there is a lot of depth on this year’s squad.
“We got 24 healthy, fit players and we’ve never had that before,” Hounsome said. “We have some really good players who came off the bench. We’ve had good players that didn’t even touch the field. Our depth is special this year.”