By Jacob Tiger
Despite a strong start to the 2021 season, the Rider Broncs came up short in their Sept. 19 matchup with the Drexel Dragons, ultimately losing 4-3. Drexel was able to take advantage of Rider’s sluggish start and build an early lead that would prove to be insurmountable.
Rider had managed an impressive 5-1 record through the first six games of the season, only losing to the Miami University (OH) Redhawks, who were ranked 21st in the nation at the time of the matchup. Going into their matchup with the struggling Drexel Dragons, the Broncs were riding high and expecting to dominate once again.
However, the Dragons did not plan on rolling over and surrendering to Rider. The Dragons were hungrier than ever.
“They were coming off a loss that they weren’t happy about, and I think that they had extra motivation to go out there and prove themselves,” Head Coach Lori Hussong said.
The Broncs seemed to be on the other end of the spectrum, expecting to coast through what appeared to be a lesser team. To their surprise, Drexel quickly proved to be a more than worthy adversary.
Rider came out looking lethargic and lackadaisical, specifically on defense, and Drexel seized this moment of weakness to the fullest extent, unleashing a barrage of offensive attacks on junior goalkeeper Kaitlyn Tomas. The Dragons were ravenous and relentless to start the game, and in under five minutes, they possessed a staggering 3-0 lead.
Before they could blink, the Broncs had taken three haymakers to the jaw and were desperately clinging to the ropes for support.
“When we’re not awake, when you’re playing against a team like Drexel, something like that can happen very easily. They’re like vultures around the ball. They see a weakness or an opening and they’re going to put it in the goal,” said Hussong. “We weren’t ready. We played very timid and scared in the opening minutes of the game.”
Looking lost and unprepared, the Broncs were in dire need of an answer or even just a glimmer of hope.
In an attempt to reset the momentum, Hussong swapped goalkeepers, replacing Tomas with sophomore Carlee Fulton.
Fulton had little game experience up to that point, only playing in a handful of games during her freshman year, but her play against Drexel did not reflect inexperience at all.
Despite being thrust into a less-than-ideal situation, Fulton was able to step up significantly. The sophomore was certainly a bright spot on a rather gloomy day for Rider field hockey. She finished the game with six saves in 55 minutes and didn’t allow a goal until late in the fourth quarter.
“I did feel fired up to get the game going and swing it around. It was more exciting than nerve-wracking,” said Fulton after the game.
With the Drexel offense contained, Rider began digging themselves out of a daunting 3-0 hole.
A minute into the second quarter, the Broncs fired off three consecutive shots on goal before senior midfielder Kat Conroy finally broke through on the fourth attempt, making the score 3-1 in Drexel’s favor.
Then, at the start of the second half, senior forward Carly Brosious was able to find the back of the net, reducing Rider’s deficit to just one score.
After a nightmare start, the Broncs were on the cusp of making a miraculous comeback, but in the end, they would come up short of their goal. Both teams traded goals in the closing minutes of the game, Drexel first, giving themselves a two-point cushion with just three minutes remaining.
In the final minute, Brosious was able to punch in another goal, but the Broncs were never able to find the equalizer, resulting in a disappointing 4-3 loss.
The Broncs will look to bounce back on Sept. 24 when they travel to Hofstra University.