Defending champs dethroned in semis

Senior back Tara Ballay scored a goal in the final game of her Rider career, a 3-1 loss in the semifinal.
Senior back Tara Ballay scored a goal in the final game of her Rider career, a 3-1 loss in the semifinal.

By Carlos Toro

The women’s soccer team’s run for a second straight conference championship ended on Nov. 6 when they lost to Manhattan in the MAAC Championship semifinals.

Despite having one of its best offensive performances of the season, finishing with 24 total shots, Head Coach Drayson Hounsome attributes the 3-1 loss to defensive mistakes that Monmouth capitalized on.

“Unfortunately, the Manhattan keeper was in inspiring form and made a career high 15 saves,” Hounsome said. “We had a couple of defensive lapses that in other games we may have got away with. Unfortunately Manhattan made us pay for those small errors capitalizing on their chances efficiently.”

The Broncs were on the wrong side of the scoreboard when the first goal came in the 35th minute as Manhattan senior midfielder Erica Modena made a cross into the box and junior forward Lizzy Carlson scored onto the near post. Carlson entered the game in the 20th minute off the bench.

By halftime, both teams had similar offensive numbers with Rider holding a slight advantage in total shots 8-7 and a 2-1 corner kick advantage at intermission.

Carlson scored again in the 53rd minute when sophomore midfielder Emma Saul had her shot blocked and Carlson scored on the rebound. This was Carlson’s sixth goal of the season.

Rider encountered even more problems when Modena scored her 12th goal of the season five minutes later when she dribbled down on the left side of the field and then shot the ball into the far post to give the Jaspers a 3-0 lead.

It was only the second time this season that a Rider opponent scored three goals in a game.

The Broncs needed to score goals in a hurry and managed to shoot the ball 16 times in the second half. Unfortunately, only one of those shots found the back of the net and it was not enough to pull off the comeback.

Senior back Tara Ballay, playing in her final game as a Bronc, scored her third goal of the season and 20th in her career when she scored on a rebound from a blocked shot.

Despite the three goals allowed, junior goalkeeper Bethany-May Howard had another productive game, finishing with nine saves. Sophomore midfielder Ellie Smith led the team with five total shots.

As the clock hit zero, the Broncs season was over. The Broncs could not carry the momentum from their 4-1 home victory against Niagara in the first round of the MAAC Tournament on Oct. 31.

Ballay said the game was somewhat of a reflection of the team’s season.

“Overall, we had our ups and downs all year,” she said. “Looking at the number of injuries we had, we did a fantastic job of coming back and doing as well as we did.”

While the team was disappointed it did not win a conference championship, Hounsome believes that another year under the team’s belt will be good for them as they look to improve for next year.

“We will continue to improve the 10 elements of play that we focused on as being key to our success,” Hounsome said. “We improved significantly this year and will continue that process of improving.”

Despite the loss, Hounsome is excited about the future of this young team.

“Although as a team we never accomplished the goal of winning back-to-back championships, many program milestones were set along the way, including the perfect 7-0 season at home,” Hounsome said. “As the youngest team in the playoffs, the playoff defeat is a stepping stone for future success and future championships.”

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