Broncs looking for rebound in 2011-12

Center Caitlin Bopp will look to wreak havoc for the Broncs as the team’s leading rebounder.

By Maria Eldridge

The Broncs are eager to prove they’ve been working hard in the off-season. The regular season opens up on Nov. 11 when Rider hosts Lafayette. The match-up is leaving the Broncs excited to win not only their first game, but sibling bragging rights as well. Senior center Sarah Homan’s younger sister, Emily, is a forward for the Leopards.

“There’s a sibling rivalry going on and we want to do everything we can to make sure Sarah has those bragging rights,” senior Ali Heller said.

Rider enters its opening game following a difficult year last season when it finished 5-25 overall and lost in the  first round of the MAAC Tournament.

But there’s reason for optimism. Head coach Lynn Milligan returns her entire roster except for one departed transfer and adds three freshmen, a group excited for a new start.

“Every individual has become dedicated and [has been] working very hard to better the team, which is also a key element to winning this year,” sophomore MyNeshia McKenzie said.

Rider will also host Bucknell during the opening weekend. The Broncs fell to the Bison in a close battle in last season’s opener. Heller, who had a career-high 14 points in last season’s game, is anxious to seek redemption from Bucknell.

“We played them last season and let a win slip away,” Heller said. “That is not going to happen this year.”

The Broncs are expecting to capitalize on the experience this veteran team has acquired throughout the years of playing together.

“We had a young team last year and with everyone returning for this season, it really is giving us an advantage on the court,” junior Caitlin Bopp said.

Depth and confidence seem to be the key elements to collecting wins this season. Despite losing to some tough teams last season, the morale is high and the Broncs are ready to battle through each game.

“Last season is over,” junior Carleigh Brown said. “As with every MAAC game, every MAAC season is different; it’s just a matter of who shows up to play. I wouldn’t say we are exactly at an advantage this year but sometimes being the underdog isn’t the worst thing.”

The conference season will open on Jan. 2 with a game at Manhattan, a gritty team whose impressive 24-10 record last season indicates this MAAC game will be a challenge.

“They’re a good basketball program and we don’t have time to come back from behind,” Bopp said. “We need to have a strong start and make Manhattan have to adjust to defend us.”

Despite some of the challenges that face the Broncs in this upcoming 2011-2012 season, the outlook is bright and they are excited to prove that they have what it takes to win.

“We’ve been working so hard in practice that it’s time we see how much our hard work is paying off,” Bopp said.

Brown is confident in her team.

“We are an older team with a lot more experience, a lot more heart and are playing with a chip on our shoulder,” said Brown. “We are going to do whatever it takes.”

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