By Paige McAtee
Rider field hockey bounced back from its first loss of the season with consecutive NEC shutout wins this past weekend. The Broncs defeated Robert Morris 4-0 on Friday and beat Saint Francis 1-0 in overtime on Sunday.
In the victory over Robert Morris (2-11 overall, 1-5 NEC), the Broncs (15-1 overall, 6-0 NEC) were aggressive early on, scoring two goals in the first 10 minutes, allowing them to take control of the game. The goals were scored by sophomore Megan Pisani and junior Margaret Ecke.
The Broncs played with a vengeance, ready to redeem themselves after Rutgers handed them their first loss of the season.
“I thought we played awesome against Robert Morris because we knew that the loss against Rutgers could not hold us down, and we had to come back firing,” said freshman Marlaine Schneider.
Ecke scored her second goal of the game just before the end of the first half. Pisani also scored her second goal with 18 minutes left in the game off an assist from sophomore Virginia Egusquiza. Egusquiza had three assists in the game, setting the Rider individual season record for 14 assists.
Pisani and Egusquiza have been the top offensive duo in NEC this season. Pisani leads the conference in game-winning goals (7) and is second in points per game (2.38) and goals per game (1.06) while Egusquiza is first in assists per game (0.81), second in game winning goals (5) and third in points and goals per game (1.94, 0.56).
The last time Robert Morris scored against Rider was Sept. 23, 2005.
On Sunday, the Broncs defeated the Red Flash (2-14 overall, 2-4 NEC) 1-0 in a tough overtime game dominated by defense.
The win was their second conference victory of the weekend and moved the Broncs’ conference record to 6-0.
Senior goalie Lyndsie Johnson had her ninth shutout of the season, setting a new Rider individual season record. As a team, it was Rider’s 10th shutout of the season out of 16 games, which is the second most in the country. Even more impressive, Johnson ranks third in the nation in goals against average (0.67) and 16th in the nation in save percentage (0.771).
The game was scoreless until Egusquiza scored just over nine minutes into overtime off an assist from Schneider to win the game.
“We came out a little flat the first half, but in the second half and overtime, we came out firing,” Schneider said. “We knew we weren’t going home with a loss. We all worked really well together and worked the way Rider field hockey should.”
Schneider was also named conference Rookie of the Week for the fifth time in the past six weeks. She leads all rookies in the conference with six goals and six assists.
“I’m so thankful and excited about it.” Schneider said. “I couldn’t have gotten this award without the help and motivation from my teammates, coaches and parents.”
The Broncs closed out their road schedule for the regular season, finishing with an impressive 9-1 record away from home. The Broncs have never lost a game against Saint Francis, compiling a record of 11-0 versus the Red Flash.
Rider will play Siena (4-12 overall, 2-4 NEC) today at 4 p.m. at Stuart Country Day School in Princeton and will close out the regular season against defending conference champs Lock Haven (16-3 overall, 7-0 NEC) on Sunday at noon.
Prior to Sunday’s game the Broncs will honor its four graduating seniors, Johnson, Brittany Baxter, Kelly Crist and Erin McGinniss, which should add a little extra motivation to an already much anticipated game.
“Playing big against Siena will prepare us for Lock Haven,” Pisani said. “We have to come out with wild energy and get a strong win over Siena and then we’ll focus on Lock Haven at our home turf.”
Lock Haven defeated Rider 3-0 in last season’s title game and is currently riding a 13-game winning streak.
If the Broncs are able to win both games, the team will win the NEC regular season title and host the four-game conference playoffs that will take place Nov. 6 and 7.
“This is our biggest game and it determines a lot for the postseason,” Pisani said. “We’re ready for our challenges this weekend and we look forward to putting on a good show.”
This season will be the 10th season in a row that Rider is in the NEC playoffs and the Broncs have been in eight of the past nine NEC Championship games.
In the past ten years, Rider has won the regular season title and championship game three times but have never won both during the same season.
– Additional reporting by Jordan Hall and Josh Veltrie.