By Carlos Toro
Facing two strong teams — Drexel and Lock Haven — in a span of four days on the road is a tall order for any team. Despite losing against both teams this week, the Broncs proved that they can go toe-to-toe with the big teams, losing by only one goal in each match.
Senior forward Sandra Penas, who tied the all-time school record for career points with 150, feels good about the team.
“It’s encouraging to know the team is capable of playing strong teams; however, at the end of the day, our goal is always to win and we won’t settle for anything less,” she said.
On Sept. 25, the Broncs (6-3) faced-off against No. 18 Drexel (7-2) on the road. Freshman midfielder Carolina Vergroesen scored the team’s only goal in the first minute of the game, while the team stood its ground and went into halftime with the lead.
The second half was a completely different story.
Drexel outshot the Broncs 10-3 and had more penalty corners (7-1). Drexel took the lead 12 minutes later when the Dragon’s freshman midfielder Jessica McCarthy scored.
Even with the loss, Head Coach Lori Hussong was pleased with her team’s performance.
“Playing Drexel is always a great way to measure how well our team is progressing,” she said. “We were really happy with our effort that night, as our team played with high intensity, especially in the first half.”
The team had to forget quickly about Drexel, because it faced Lock Haven on Sept. 28. For the second straight game, it was a low-scoring affair with the winning goal coming late in the second half.
Once again, the Broncs fell just short.
Rider, who led the country in penalty corners, got beat in that department. Lock Haven (8-2) got the last laugh, despite being outshot 13-9, when they scored in the 57th minute.
Rider faces the struggling St. Joe’s (1-7) on the road on Oct. 4, then finishes a four-game road trip on Oct. 6 against Lehigh (2-8). They come back to Rider on Oct. 9, and play their first home game since Sept. 20 against another strong team, the University of Pennsylvania (6-1, 2-0 Ivy League).
Even though the combined win percentage of their next three opponents is below .500, the Broncs are looking forward to settling into a good rhythm when conference play begins, especially when it comes to their struggling offense.
“These last three games before conference play starts are going to be really important for us,” Penas said. “We want to be playing at our potential once conference games start and we are still looking to improve. We have a very young team and are getting used to each other on the field. Our biggest problem in the last two games has been that we couldn’t generate a lot of attack and we couldn’t score, so we need to work on that.”
Even with nine freshmen on the squad, Penas still believes that the sky’s the limit.
“For us seniors, we have always had successful seasons and we won’t settle for less,” she said. “We are looking to have another. Our goal is to win the conference championship, win the NCAA play-in game and be the first Rider team that advances to the NCAA tournament.”
But, if the Broncs want to play post-season field hockey, Hussong believes they have a lot to work on.
“We need to generate more offense and score more goals, and at the other end, keep the ball out of our circle and not give away so many penalty corners,” she said. “We are improving with each game we play, and if our players will learn how to share the ball and reduce the amount of times we try to go one-on-one with the opposing team’s defense, we should see improved goal production.”