By Brian Somner
The women’s soccer team attempted to continue its success, traveling to Washington state on Nov. 14 to take on fourth-seeded Washington in a first-round matchup of the NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament, but fell 1-0 to the Huskies.
Following its first-ever MAAC championship, the team (12-6-3, 5-3-2 MAAC) made its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Tournament. While the Broncs battled injuries throughout the season, they managed to pull through adversity and had the most successful women’s soccer season in Rider’s history.
Head Coach Drayson Hounsome was proud of the team for its many accomplishments and for reaching the national tournament.
“The team chemistry this year was outstanding and definitely allowed the collective performance of the team to reach a higher level,” Hounsome said. “When seniors are as close to freshmen as they are to juniors, you have a strong group.”
The first-round matchup was a hard-fought battle between the two teams, with the Broncs holding their own against one of the nation’s top teams.
While the Huskies (13-6-2, 5-4-2 Pac-12) outshot the Broncs 21-3, they managed to only get one goal past the Broncs’ goalkeeper, sophomore Bethany-May Howard, in the 16th minute. Junior defender McKenzie Karas scored the game-deciding goal with a header off of a well-executed set piece by the Huskies.
Despite Howard allowing the match’s only goal, Hounsome had nothing but good words for his goalkeeper.
“With an outstanding keeper in goal for us, we would have been confident going into another penalty shootout,” Hounsome said.
The Broncs managed to take the Huskies, a member of the Pac-12 conference, out of their element even on their home turf, and that is one of the praises from Hounsome towards the team as a whole.
“We pressed UW very well and denied them time and space on the ball, disrupting them playing the possession style they like to play,” Hounsome said.
With the Broncs losing four seniors but returning nine of the 11 starters, they will look to continue their success with a strong off-season.
“They leave the program as the winningest members of the team ever with a 40-24-11 record and their leadership and personalities will be missed,” Hounsome said. “We will train very hard over the spring and continue to improve our style of play so next season promises to be an exciting one.”
Senior back Kristen Clarke is one of those departing from the team, but this season’s success makes her believe there will be even more in the future.
“I see the team growing stronger, adding some more key players and achieving even more in the future,” Clarke said. “Yes, I believe that they will get back into the tournament next year and be regular participants in it in future years.”
Junior back Tara Ballay believes that despite losing the seniors, the team will have more experience with many underclassmen coming back for another season.
“The first ever MAAC Championship was extremely exciting,” Ballay said. “Next year, we will quickly have to fill the large roles that our seniors played in our success. This year we were a very young and energetic team with 18 underclassmen. I think that next year we will still be able to play with the same energy, but now we will have added experience.”