By Jacob Tiger and Carolo Pascale
Two games in four days seem like a daunting task for most teams, but Rider women’s soccer spectacularly rose to the occasion. It started with a defensive masterclass on Sept. 29 with a 0-0 double overtime tie against Monmouth, and just two days later, on Oct. 2, the Broncs capped off their weekend with their first conference win of the season against Canisius 2-0.
On Sept. 29, the Rider and Monmouth women’s soccer teams were locked in a 120 minute stalemate, with the game ending in a 0-0 tie thanks to an incredible performance from the Rider defense.
Already amid a three-game losing streak, the Broncs were staring down a difficult matchup against the 6-3 Hawks, anticipating a tough fight but also determined to snap their losing streak.
The game began and it was immediately clear that Monmouth was in control. Monmouth dominated when it came to field position and time of possession, taking a high number of shots.
In the first half alone, Monmouth took a total of nine shots, five of which were on goal, while Rider only attempted three.
“We had a game plan tonight to force them inside and let them shoot from wherever they wanted to shoot from, but not let them get behind us,” said Head Coach Drayson Hounsome. “Were they shots or were they losing possession? That would be my question for them. If you’re kicking toward the goal but it goes out of bounds, is it a shot or are you just giving the ball away to the other team?”
When Monmouth was able to put a shot on goal, sophomore goalkeeper Ellie Sciancalepore was there to stop it without fail. She finished the game with a career high of 14 saves, just two saves shy of tying the school record.
“I’m proud of it, but I couldn’t do it without the backline. There were definitely a lot of shots where they deflected the ball or stepped in front, so it’s a big number for all of us. We all came out here with that intensity and that energy, and it’s by far the best game for, not just myself, but I think this team,” said Sciancalepore.
The game ended in an anticlimactic, yet satisfying 0-0 tie after two overtime periods, finally getting the Broncs out of the loss column.
“To come out and prove ourselves, and show that we can play to that level for 120 minutes is awesome. We’re happy with tonight, but we’re working forward,” said Sciancalepore.
Hounsome said, “We don’t control whether we win or lose. We control whether we put forth the best effort, and today we put forth a tremendous effort.”
Just a few days after their tie against Monmouth, the Broncs were back out on Ben Cohen Field on Oct. 2. Facing them was a hungry Canisius team searching for its very first victory of the season.
Rider, carrying over its momentum from the previous game, netted two goals in the second half en route to a 2-0 victory, securing the Broncs their first Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) win of the season.
“We kept a clean sheet, we scored more goals than the opponent, and we didn’t get any injuries. It was a fantastic performance,” said Hounsome.
The first shot of the game came in just the first minute with the Griffins pressing Rider early. But Sciancalepore held down the fort, making a spectacular diving save on a shot destined for the top left corner in the sixth minute, keeping the score at 0-0. The game was tied when the first half ended.
But only two minutes into the second half, Broncs senior midfielder Gabriela Garcia headed the ball into the Griffins net off a corner kick, giving Rider a 1-0 lead in the 47th minute.
“It’s actually my first college career goal during these four years, so I was really excited and didn’t even know what to do. We were carrying this high energy before the game so that’s helping us a lot,” said Garcia.
Rider found the back of the net a second time when freshman midfielder Amanda Mendez perfectly placed a goal-line pass to junior forward Makenzie Rodrigues, who buried it, giving the Broncs a 2-0 lead in the 70th minute. This was Rodrigues’ fifth goal of the season, giving her the team lead.
“I think coming off last spring, it’s just a role I’ve kind of taken on, and the girls are all supportive. In the second half, we really stepped it up. We found more attacking passes and broke them down a little bit more,” said Rodrigues.
Rider held on and secured its first conference win of the season, with a final score of 2-0. Rider ended the game with 12 shots, half of them getting on target.
“It’s all to do with energy. Wednesday night, under the lights, decent crowd there’s more energy. But Saturday afternoon at 1 p.m., it’s tough,” said Hounsome
Looking forward to their next game, the Broncs hit the road and travel to Jersey City to take on the Saint Peter’s Peacocks on Oct. 6.
“In Saint Peter’s, there is no energy. It’s a tough place to go and play. The team has to generate their own energy. If they can do that and bring that onto the field, we should be able to compete,” Hounsome said.