By Brian Sommer
On Nov. 1, Rider traveled to Monmouth in hopes of clinching the first MAAC regular season title. Prior to this season, the Broncs had won four straight North Eastern Conference (NEC) regular season titles before switching over to the MAAC. Rider opened the scoring when sophomore back Rachel Ippolite scored her second goal of the season after a penalty corner from freshman midfielder Carlota Alsina in the 10th minute.
Monmouth eventually tied the game in the 28th minute, but the tie would not last long as the Broncs quickly responded 21 seconds later when freshman forward Kalyn O’Brien scored her ninth goal of the season with seven minutes left in the half.
A few minutes later, Alsina would find junior midfielder Laura McCormick on a penalty corner, giving McCormick her first goal of the season.
“Coach always reminds us to be ready to get into the game, to be the spark plug to create energy,” McCormick said. “This year, I feel that is my role. We all have our roles and, if we do our jobs right, everything will pan out well.”
With the Broncs leading 3-1 and the first half coming to a close, freshman forward Nicole Hareau scored her MAAC leading 15th goal of the season off a McCormick deflection from a penalty corner. The Broncs led by three going in to half time. Rider went on to win the game 4-1 and clinched the first MAAC regular season title in its inaugural season.
Head Coach Lori Hussong is no stranger to conference titles, but she felt this year was different.
“This team is really special in that almost half the team are freshmen and many of them have been put right into the mix,” Hussong said. “Our seniors have done an outstanding job of creating great team chemistry and camaraderie which is such a necessary ingredient to our success.”
Nov. 3rd, after the strong win against Monmouth, the Broncs battled the defending national champion, ninth ranked, Princeton. This game would end the regular season schedule for Rider.
Princeton found the back of the net early, however, the Broncs would not give up, scoring a last minute goal with only 14 seconds remaining. Junior midfielder Rachel Schwab scored her second goal of the season off a penalty corner from Alsina to send the game to overtime.
However, the Tigers would end up winning with a goal with five minutes left in the first overtime period.
Despite the loss, this will be something the Broncs can look back on when playing in the MAAC championship next weekend, and use it to motivate the team.
“After our performance against Princeton, we have a lot of confidence because we were able to compete against such a talented team,” McCormick said. “I think we all now realize how well we can play as a team, and are excited for next weekend.”
The Broncs now move on to tournament play and seek the first ever MAAC field hockey championship.
Senior forward Sandra Penas, believes in the team going in to the conference tournament.
“The MAAC championship is going to be completely different,” Penas said. “We will have to give our best effort in every game, no matter what team we will be playing against.”
Rider hosts the MAAC championship tournament Nov. 8-9, which begins when #3 Bryant takes on #2 Quinnipiac for the first semifinal game. Shortly after, the number one seed Broncs will take on 4th seeded Robert Morris at 6 p.m. The championship will be played on Saturday the 9th at 3 p.m. The winner of that will move on to the NCAA Play-in on Nov. 13 for a chance to reach the NCAA Field Hockey Tournament.