By David Pavlak
By defeating Saint Francis (Pa.) and Monmouth last weekend, the Broncs clinched their fourth NEC regular-season title and will now host the NEC playoffs on Nov. 2 and 3 with aspirations of a third consecutive NEC championship.
The first game will feature Monmouth taking on Saint Francis (Pa.) on Nov. 2 at 11 a.m, while the Broncs will face Quinnipiac at 1:30 p.m. on Ben Cohen Field. The championship game will be held on Nov. 3 at noon.
The Broncs took on Quinnipiac on Oct. 14 on the road and lost 3-2 in a game that snapped the Broncs’ 25-game NEC winning streak. Rider heavily outshot Quinnipiac even though the final score didn’t fall in its favor.
“We respect every opponent,” Head Coach Lori Hussong said. “Our loss to them at their field taught us to play together and with intensity every minute. We outshot them 22-4 and lost, so our girls would like to have another shot at them. We are playing like a different team at this point of the season; we understand what we do well, and we will stay away from what we don’t do as well.”
Junior forward Sandra Penas feels that the Broncs are capable of defeating Quinnipiac this time.
“I think our team has changed since we first played Quinnipiac,” Penas said. “We are stronger and play more together, but it’s going to be a hard game and we will have to play at our best to beat them.”
The Broncs look to overcome Quinnipiac and the winner of the Monmouth-Saint Francis (Pa.) contest in order to secure another NEC championship on their home field. Hussong believes that the team should consider each game as a fresh start.
“If a team thinks that they can just walk on the field and win, it can get surprised,” Hussong said. “We take one game at a time and focus only on that game. Our goal each game is to give our best effort. If you do that, you never play in fear of losing. If each player gives her best effort, we can accept winning or losing because there is nothing more that we could ask for.”
The pair of wins that the Broncs secured on Oct. 26 and 28 helped set them up for a run in the NEC playoffs. Rider defeated Saint Francis (Pa.) 2-1 and Monmouth 5-2. Penas noted the incentives that these wins provided.
“We knew we had to win either Friday or Saturday to secure our spot in the championship, so that was a big motivation,” Penas said. “After we beat Saint Francis, we knew if we beat Monmouth, we would host the championship. Playing on our turf would be a huge advantage, so that was a big motivation too. We were able to win both games because we outhustled both teams and played together.”
Hussong feels that the Broncs have all the capabilities to walk away from the weekend as NEC champions.
“If we keep our effort level where it’s at and keep playing together, good things are going to happen,” she said. “These girls have become a typical Rider field hockey team — working hard, caring about each other and playing their best at the end. It’s fun to see it coming together for them.”
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