By Carolo Pascale
In one of the most anticipated games of the regular season, the field hockey team posted its third shutout in a row with a 1-0 victory over Fairfield University on April 1.
The game was circled on Rider’s calendar because it was the first game Rider had against the Stags, since losing to them in overtime in the 2019 Northeast Conference (NEC) final.
This time, things went differently for the Broncs as they finished as the victors, winning after a penalty corner goal scored by senior midfielder Kaitlyn Flemming in the third period.
“Scoring any goal in a conference game is exciting because they mean so much. It’s a little nerve-wracking every thought going through your mind,” said Flemming. “But it was really just centering myself in taking a deep breath and executing what I’ve practiced.”
This was Flemming’s first goal of the season. She scored five goals in 2019 and has 14 in her career.
“We huddled up, we were excited, but it was right to the point of don’t let down, don’t do anything that could cost the game, stay with each other, stay true to each other and keep communicating. And it was more thinking about how we can score another one to secure it and not really worrying about what just happened,” Flemming said.
Besides the goal, Rider put five more shots on net with a lot of possession time in Fairfield’s half.
The Broncs only allowed two shots to get through to sophomore goalkeeper Kaitlyn Tomas — she stopped both and has yet to give up a goal this season.
“My defense has been so strong, and I honestly don’t think I’ve played with the team with defenders so strong,” said sophomore goalkeeper Kaitlyn Tomas about what’s been leading to her and the team’s success. “They come up with these big plays that honestly save us from potentially getting a goal scored on us and we are just really confident.”
Tomas also faced seven corners in this game, along with five in a 1-0 win against Long Island University on March 18.
“I think our defense did a great job at defending the corners. We’re pretty confident in our skills. Every time we get in the corner we always remind each other, you got this, just the simple things,” Tomas said.
The game was a defensive battle, as each team’s shot totals stayed under 10, Rider with nine total and Fairfield with four total.
Head Coach Lori Hussong echoed how good the defense has been for Rider this year, as the team hasn’t given up any goals this season.
“They’ve just been so tough. Our backline, it’s a very veteran backline, and our goalkeepers are playing really well,” a complimentary Hussong said.
Rider has now played the three games needed to qualify for the NEC Championship game, which was set for this season only due to COVID-19.
“Thank goodness, everyone has been doing their job of staying safe and doing everything they can,” said Tomas. “So even though it’s a relief, we’re still not done yet. I think we all have that mentality.”
With a 3-0 record, Rider will face the 2-2 Wagner Seahawks in another highly-anticipated game for the Broncs on April 8.