By Jordan Hall
In Rider’s recent history, the fall athletic season has not been its forte, but in 2010, its been better. As most teams reach the halfway mark on its schedules, now is an opportune time to diagnose strengths, weaknesses and what must improve.
Women’s soccer has made significant strides this year, complimenting field hockey quite nicely, but there’s no debate that field hockey is still the class of the fall programs. Unlike its blistering 13-0 start last campaign, the field hockey team has faltered, but remains on track and prepared for the stretch run. No, they weren’t ranked atop the country on Sept. 3 in FieldHockeyCorner.com’s ACR rankings like 2009, but they have all its key assets from last season with an added year of experience.
The Broncs are 6-3 thus far with each of its three defeats coming on the road by one goal. They’re now riding a three-game winning streak and have outscored opponents 13-1 during that span. With the addition of prized freshman Sandra Penas, the Broncs boast one of the top offensive trios in the nation with juniors Virginia Egusquiza and Megan Pisani.
The only question coming into this season was at the goalie position. Former Bronc Lyndsie Johnson was a fixture in net, starting all 41 matchups the previous two years, but she has since graduated, leaving Rider with its only hole.
If the Broncs can get consistent goalkeeping, its defense and offense will do the rest and an NEC Championship is more than feasible.
The women’s soccer program continues to improve. A year removed from its first MAAC postseason berth since 2005, Rider looks primed to return to the conference playoffs.
The Broncs are 4-3-2 overall and rank second in the league in assists per game while placing third in goals and points. Rider has won four of its last six contests as they kickoff MAAC competition this weekend in Lawrenceville.
The Broncs are gearing up for conference play with momentum and confidence. Freshman Jennifer Meier and sophomore Abi Cottam have been outstanding and third-year head coach Drayson Hounsome seems to be building a winner.
The men’s soccer team is heading in the wrong direction for yet another season, and its problem is simple: offense. The Broncs have scored a combined five goals in eight games, handing them a 1-7 record with its lone victory against NJIT where the offense fired in three scores.
In Rider’s losses, they’ve been outscored 22-2, a recipe for disaster. Unless the offense stunningly awakes, the men’s soccer season will once again be highlighted by goals scored instead of wins.
The volleyball squad is enduring a year similar to the men’s soccer team. The Broncs are 1-12 overall and have dropped its first four MAAC matches. Last season, Rider finished 3-26 overall and only captured one conference match so surpassing this mark will be considered a success as well as being competitive.
The tennis teams are struggling – mightily. In team resulted matches, the two programs have lost a combined 46-1 in sets. Staying in matches and winning sets will be the focus for both squads whereas a conference championship seems out of question.
The cross country team has run extremely well in the early part of its schedule. The men’s squad has put up two second place finishes to jumpstart its season while the women have placed third and fifth.
With a core group of veterans, the men’s team should challenge Iona for the conference crown and the women should be a threat as well.
The golf team is feeling the loss of Eric LeFante. Last year, the former number one helped guide Rider to consistent middle-to-upper-half finishes but this season, the Broncs can’t seem to find its touch. They’ve placed 13th out of 17, 10th out of 12 and 11th out of 14 in three invitationals this fall and they’ll look to conclude the autumn portion of its season on a high note at the Liberty Mercury Intercollegiate tournament.