By Michael Mack
The Rider field hockey team, currently riding a 10-game winning streak, looks to carry its momentum into home games against Robert Morris University (7-10) on Sunday and the University of Pennsylvania (3-10) on Wednesday. Rider is currently 14-1 overall and 5-0 in the MAAC.
The Broncs were able to overcome a tough Monmouth team Thursday afternoon. Freshman Eefje Kok, senior Virginia Equsquiza and sophomore Sandra Penas all scored for the Broncs. Senior goalie Rebecca Lotito had six saves.
Sunday’s game against Robert Morris will be Senior Day, celebrating the athletic careers of six senior athletes on the team. Among those seniors is starting goalkeeper Rebecca Lotito.
“Senior Day is always a big day and it’s quite a shock that it’s actually our day,” Lotito said. “We are all starting to realize that our collegiate careers are coming to an end, and Senior Day is the validating factor.”
Other seniors to be honored will be Virginia Egusquiza, Megan Pisani, Stephanie McGinty, Mary Morano and Natasha Tukeva.
“Each and every senior has given something very unique to our program,” Head Coach Lori Hussong said. “We will not only miss their outstanding play, but most importantly, we will miss each of them for the quality and strong character that they have demonstrated during their time here at Rider.”
Aside from celebrating the seniors, Coach Hussong says that the game Sunday will be “business as usual.”
“We will thank our seniors for all they have given to our program,” Hussong said. “Then we stay on track and try and finish our NEC schedule as strong as possible.”
Robert Morris appears to be an underdog against the Broncs. However, Hussong knows that it will provide a test.
“Robert Morris is a much improved team,” Hussong said. “We know that we have to be at the top of our game each time we step out onto the field.”
The Broncs will have to slow down RMU’s freshman phenomenon Jamie Hartley, who has eight goals on 65 shots this season.
Wednesday’s game against the University of Pennsylvania will be another case where Rider looks like the much stronger team on paper. These types of games could be a problem for over-confident teams that struggle to stay motivated, but Lotito feels the Broncs will be in good shape.
“The team feels very confident right now, especially with our winning streak,” Lotito said. “We prepare every day to get focused for our next game, which keeps us working hard.”
Pennsylvania is 3-10 this season without a single win on the road. This is also the first non-conference game for the Broncs since Oct. 2. Still, Lotito says the team will be ready.
“We are very excited to play UPenn, simply because we love to compete,” Lotito said. “No matter who we play, we always give our best effort, and UPenn is another game to prepare us for the NEC championship.”
Hussong agrees that the team will still be pushing as hard as ever.
“Our players know that we are now in the middle of the most important part of our season,” Hussong said. “All of their hard work and commitment is paying off and giving them an excellent opportunity for our team to qualify for the playoffs.”
The team is also drawing some motivation from another source.
“The UPenn game is a Code Cranberry game, which means all the athletes will be there to support us,” Lotito said. “It is going to be an awesome game.”