Kicking off the season on a hot streak

Junior midfielder Tara Ballay opened the scoring with a goal in the 16th minute of play on Sept. 14 when Rider defeated NJIT 2-1.
Junior midfielder Tara Ballay opened the scoring with a goal in the 16th minute of play on Sept. 14 when Rider defeated NJIT 2-1.

By Carlos Toro

The women’s soccer team (5-2) will begin conference play on Sept. 21. After winning five of their first seven games, the team has had a successful start to the season.

Most recently, Rider won 2-1 over New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) (2-7) in the second period of overtime on Sept. 14 after sophomore forward Michelle Iacono scored the game-winning goal to finish their non-conference schedule.

The Broncs and Head Coach Drayson Hounsome were pleased.

“The girls battled hard today,” Hounsome said.

The Broncs displayed their offense from the very beginning of the game, almost scoring in the first two minutes when junior midfielder Tara Ballay had a shot blocked by an opposing player and two other shots hit the post and the crossbar.

The scoring drought didn’t last long, however. Ballay scored her sixth goal of the season on Rider’s seventh of what would be 36 shots. With the score, Ballay has as many goals this year as she did in the previous two seasons combined.

Despite Rider taking plenty of shots, the attempts yielded little results. Rider outshot NJIT 12-3 in the first half, netting only one of those shots.

The second half proved to be even harder to score in.

NJIT substituted its starting goalkeeper, junior Samantha Bersett, with sophomore Karen David at halftime, and she thwarted all of Rider’s opportunities to score in regulation time, blocking eight shots.

Iacono gave credit to NJIT and Bersett’s goalkeeping ability.

“I think a lot of shots gave us more confidence,” Iacono said. “Instead of thinking ‘Oh no, we shot 36 times and got only one goal,’ we were thinking ‘We need to keep pushing forward.’ So that was our mentality.”

NJIT only needed one chance to tie the game up and took advantage when senior forward Rebecca Tustin’s shot hit the goalpost but rolled into the back of the net just before the 73rd minute, sending the game to overtime.

Although the Broncs outhsot NJIT 9-0 in the first overtime, they continued to struggle to find the back of the net. Neither team was able to score in the first overtime, which forced a second overtime. Within the first four minutes, Rider took its first shot and was immediately followed by NJIT’s first overtime shot.

Rider’s next shot ended the game as Iacono scored the winning goal in the eighth minute of the second overtime. It was her second game-winning goal in overtime this season, and it was in a game where she knew she had to step up.

“Today was a day I knew I had to work hard for my team,” Iacono said. “In overtime, we knew we needed to be strong, and I was able to finish it, which was great.”

Despite shooting the ball 36 times, Rider was not in complete control. NJIT used a formation that Hounsome saw gave Rider some trouble throughout the game.

“The team (NJIT) was playing a formation we weren’t familiar with, so there was some frustration,” Hounsome said. “We just need to try and take a few more (shots) and put it in the back of the net.”

The team has won three straight games and four out of their last five. Rider’s offense has been productive in recent play, scoring eight goals in their last three games: four against Wagner on Sept. 7, two against Delaware State on Sept. 10, and two against NJIT.

The Broncs have been playing well on both offense and defense. Ballay was named the MAAC Offensive Player of the Week on Sept. 8, while sophomore goalkeeper Bethany-May Howard was named the MAAC Defensive Player of the Week for the first week of September.

Rider will get a week’s rest before they start MAAC play Sept. 21 hosting Marist (1-4). Rider lost to Marist 5-0 on the road during the regular season last year, but avenged the loss during the MAAC tournament when they beat the Red Foxes 2-1.

“Last time we played Marist here [at Rider], we beat them 5-1, so hopefully we could score five goals again,” Hounsome said.

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