Cunningham leading red-hot Rider offense
By Stephen Neukam
The women’s soccer team put together an impressive three-game winning streak following a 2-0 home defeat to Princeton. It defeated Columbia 2-1 and Delaware State 5-1 before returning to Ben Cohen Field and beating Monmouth 1-0.
Princeton, which, at the time, was ranked No. 22 in the nation, handled the Broncs comfortably with two first half goals. The Rider attack struggled to find its footing in the contest, posting just four shots on target for the match.
Junior midfielder Valeria Pascuet followed the Princeton loss with a superb showing at Colombia which saw her net both of the Broncs’ goals. The opening score, a penalty kick, was Pascuet’s first of the season. Her second of the game was a free kick from just outside the 18-yard box, which secured the win for Rider.
“It was an excellent team performance against a very strong opponent,” said Head Coach Drayson Hounsome following their victory. “It was great to see Val score two goals with some great saves from both keepers and excellent tackles in the second half to get the result.”
The Broncs’ offense continued to roll at Delaware State with senior forward Kourtney Cunningham netting her first career hat trick and insurance goals from Pascuet and junior midfielder Erica Ludwikowski. Cunningham’s hat trick was the first for Rider since 2016.
The Broncs opened MAAC play with a home game against Monmouth, which was chosen as the favorite to win the conference in the Preseason MAAC Coaches Poll and had not lost to Rider since the 2014 season.
The Broncs jumped at Monmouth and took the lead early with a goal from freshman back Niamh Cashin who tapped in the ball from a corner kick.
Rider then went on the defensive, absorbing steady pressure from the Hawks attack. Monmouth enjoyed a 17-8 advantage in shots throughout the game but Bronc sophomore goalkeeper Carmen Carbonell was up to the task and blanked the Hawks.
The goal from Cashin was her first career collegiate goal. Cashin, who missed the early part of the season because she was training with England’s U-19 team, was happy to be on the pitch for Rider. The U-19 squad is England’s national soccer youth team.
“It’s been a frustrating few weeks not playing, so to play was great and to score was even better. It’s been great [to be back with the girls],” said Cashin.
The result was impressive for the Broncs, beating a team that is the five-time defending MAAC regular season champions. With the win, Rider opened up conference play with a 1-0 record.
“It was a brilliant result. I was optimistic coming in. I think we’ve got a really talented group. Monmouth is an outstanding team. They’re still the best team in the conference. They’re still the team that’s the favorite, and rightly so. But tonight was our night,” said Hounsome.
The three game win streak is the first of its length since the 2016 season and puts the Broncs’ record at 5-2-1 on the season. Rider, which faces a number of challenging road contests in the coming weeks, has yet to drop a game away from home this season, posting at 3-0-1 record.
“We’ve gotten our momentum going,” said Hounsome. “We’ve got arguably our most challenging away trip heading up to Niagara so we’ll get everyone rested.”
The Broncs will need to keep the momentum going to handle away trips to Niagara and Fairfield which are next up on the Rider schedule.
The Broncs’ next match is at Niagara University on Sept. 22 at 1 p.m.