By Carlos Toro
Competing in its first-ever postseason tournament, the women’s basketball team traveled to Virginia Tech in the first round of the Women’s National Invitational Tournament (WNIT).
The Broncs lost to the Hokies on March 17, 76-62, to conclude one of the most successful seasons in program history.
Senior center Julia Duggan said the season was special for her and the other seniors on the team.
“For the seniors, it’s all the hard work that we’ve had in the past four years and it paid off,” Duggan said. “Everything that we did in practice, that didn’t translate in the past three years, definitely started working on the court. It was really great to see that. We accomplished a lot this year and we’re very proud of that.”
Rider got off to a slow start on offense in the first half of the game, only making 25 percent of its field goals in the opening 20 minutes.
After Virginia Tech began the game with a 6-4 lead, it then went on an 11-2 scoring run in the first quarter of the game, ending the quarter with a 22-11 lead.
The Broncs quickly got off to a hot start in the second quarter when they went on a 7-0 scoring run. Junior guard Kamila Hoskova scored the first four points of that brief run and sophomore guard Lexi Posset made a three-point shot to cut Virginia Tech’s lead to four points with 7:48 remaining in the second quarter.
Virginia Tech then quickly picked itself back up on offense and increased its lead to double-digits in less than two minutes. Rider went scoreless in the final 4:41 of the first half as the team’s chances of winning quickly diminished.
The lack of scoring from Rider in the second quarter culminated in a 45-19 deficit at halftime.
Rider battled back in the second half of the game, outscoring Virginia Tech 21-14, thanks to increased production on offense inside the paint. Rider scored 14 points inside the paint in the third quarter, but only cut the Hokies’ lead to 19 points.
The Broncs only got as far as cutting Virginia Tech’s lead to 13 points in the final quarter before the Hokies ran away with the lead.
Virginia Tech quickly had a 6-0 scoring run to increase its lead to 19 points and the Broncs could not put much of a dent on the Hokies’ lead for the remainder of the game.
Rider’s defense still performed well against Virginia Tech. The Hokies committed 22 turnovers and only made five of their 18 three-point shot attempts, but outrebounded the Broncs 47-31.
The Hokies only had three players — Regan Magarity, Chanette Hicks and Samantha Hill — score in double-digits, but they accounted for 65 of the team’s 76 points.
Hoskova scored 18 points in the game, while Posset scored 13 points. Duggan finished 12 points, scoring her 1,000th career point as a Bronc. Duggan is the 21st Bronc to score 1,000 points in program history.
The team certainly felt that it earned the right to compete alongside the best teams in the tournament, according to Duggan.
“We definitely deserved it,” Duggan said. “Even though we wanted to win the MAAC Tournament [and go to the NCAA Tournament], being at the WNIT was just as special.”
Despite the loss, the Broncs achieved plenty of success, finishing with 24 wins this season, the most in a season since the 1981-82 season. Rider finished second in the conference regular season standings, its highest finish in the MAAC in program history, as well as competing in the MAAC Tournament championship game for the first time.
The Broncs will have several top players returning next year including freshman Stella Johnson and Hoskova. Duggan said the returning players could achieve higher success next year.
“I hope the leadership projected by this year’s seniors move on to the juniors who are going to be the seniors of next year and take the great talent of this team to a whole new level and move forward,” Duggan said.