By Kristie Kahl
Change can be seen as good or bad. In the case of the Rider women’s basketball team, change has been the best thing that has happened to the program in years.
Head Coach Lynn Milligan has shown that it is a good thing that you can come home again, as the Rider alumna returned to home court. In her time as a student, Milligan was a part of the most successful programs in 10 years, going 9-3 in the East Coast Conference as a senior. As a graduate assistant at Rider, Milligan helped the Broncs obtain a 35-20 record in two years, including a 25-11 record in the Northeast Conference.
Two years ago, Milligan signed with Rider as head coach, replacing former Head Coach Tori Harrison. In Harrison’s three years, she was only able to earn a 14-73 record. Thus far in her career, Milligan has compiled an 18-40 record in her second year alone.
In the 2006-07 season, the Broncs could only claim two wins with 28 losses overall as the 10th seed in the MAAC. Granted, last season the Broncs still found themselves in 10th place, but the team was able to quadruple its overall wins and triple its conference wins in just one season under Milligan. Finishing the season 8-22 overall and 3-15 in the MAAC was the highest win total for the team in the previous four seasons.
To some, eight wins does not seem like much. If you take a closer look at the Broncs 22 losses, 14 of them were by less than 10 points, the most single-digit losses in the country for Division I. Although Milligan could not help the Broncs win them all, she certainly helped the program begin to become a force to be reckoned with for the coming years.
In the 2007-08 season, Rider built its résumé, taking down bigger named schools, such as Central Florida, Monmouth, Army, Hofstra and Princeton.
In Milligan’s first season, the Broncs’ defense allowed 8.4 fewer points per game and was only out scored by 7.1 points per game after being out-scored by 16.6 points in the previous season. Rider was also able to tie for first place in the MAAC and 57th in the nation for three-point field goals per game with 6.1.
With success comes fans. As Milligan helped to rebuild the basketball program, Rider helped in attendance as Alumni Gym started to pack with almost 600 fans per game. An Alumni Gym record was set as the Broncs took on conference rival Marist, recording 1,494 fans.
This season, the Broncs are currently 10-18 overall with a 7-10 MAAC record. Rider finds itself in seventh place out of 10 teams, a position the Broncs have not been familiar with in some years now.
Currently, the Broncs are averaging a .378 field goal percentage, a .296 three-point field goal percentage, a .698 free throw percentage and a 59.4 point average per game. Rider claims the No. 1rebounding offense in the conference, averaging 40.4 rebounds per game while taking second place in the MAAC for rebounding defense behind Fairfield.
In two years, Milligan has put the women’s team on the map while making major changes to the program. Having her as head coach is just what the doctor ordered to continue toward successful seasons.
Milligan has the patience and dedication to work with this program, and in her time here thus far, she has made a big difference. Her players respect her and the university commends her. She is doing a great job with the turnaround of the program and it looks as if she will only continue to drive the Broncs to victory.
Overall, Milligan has been here a short time but she is making huge strides. Most would look at the Broncs’ record and not think much of it. But when you compare the past to the present, the future looks promising under Milligan’s reign.