By Matt Burrill
For the past decade and a half, the Rider field hockey team has been one of the university’s most successful programs. However, the titles and success are not the only things that Head Coach Lori Hussong preaches in her program.
“I want these girls to have a great experience and enjoy their careers here at Rider,” Hussong said.
So far, so good. The team has gotten off to an expected, yet still impressive, 4–1 start.
The team’s early success has featured wins over non-conference opponents Colgate (1-5, 0-0 Patriot League), Georgetown (0-6, 0-0 Big East), Villanova (2-4, 0-0 Big East) and Hofstra (3-4, 0-0 ACC), plus a tough 2-3 loss against Brown (2-2, 0-0 Ivy League).
Although everything looks great on paper right now for the Broncs, Hussong described the team’s first set of games as a “struggle,” making references to the new players on her roster.
“Our effort level and effectiveness in the ground game needs to improve for us to get to where we want to be,” Hussong said. “We are very young. A lot of the kids who are on the field for us right now are freshmen.”
A major key for Rider so far has been the play of its two senior leaders and captains, forward Sandra Penas and midfielder Alicia Govannicci. In their time at Rider, both players have seen great success and learned what it takes to compete for a championship.
“We know that we both have big responsibilities as the leaders on this team,” Penas said.
Hussong also knows the value of her two veteran stars.
“These two have had outstanding careers and profound impacts on our program in the fact that they have scored goals in championship play,” she said.
Much of the success reflects the leadership brought on by Hussong, who is entering her 14th season as head coach.
Since her arrival in 2000, Rider has claimed six postseason conference titles with the most recent coming a year ago. The dominance and culture of winning have helped establish high expectations for field hockey in 2013.
With its unique combination of experience and youth, it seems as though the team is destined for success. The 4-1 start will most certainly not hurt the team’s high hopes of another conference championship.
“The last couple years, everybody seemed to be gunning for Rider and giving their best performance against us,” Hussong said. “We’ve got to be ready every single minute when we step on the field.”
Rider will also be hosting the MAAC Championship at the end of the season, adding some extra motivation to the team’s efforts.
“We want that home-field advantage and a chance to win a title on our field,” Govannicci said.
The Broncs will look to improve their record to 5-1 when they host Towson (1-5, 0-0 CAA) in the home opener this season on Friday, Sept. 20 at 7 p.m.