By Brandon Scalea
With non-conference play coming to a close, the field hockey team might be in the rhythm it needs to do some damage in the MAAC.
Coming off a tough 5-1 loss at Hofstra on Sept. 17, Rider (6-4) is now on an impressive three-game winning streak with two victories coming on the road. The Broncs beat La Salle 3-2 on Sept. 21, St. Francis 3-0 at home on Sept. 23 and Colgate 4-1 on Sept. 25.
Sophomore midfielder Jessica Randazzo said, although it was a little tough playing three games in five days, the team is happy with the outcome.
“The key to us winning has been our ability to play together as a team,” she said. “We’re putting in the extra effort when we need to. Obviously, it’s a little hard on our bodies, but we’re all giving 110 percent to get ready for conference play.”
The star of the streak was freshman midfielder Daane Koch, who has already been honored three times this season as MAAC Rookie of the Week. She has notched a point in six straight games, and leads the team with seven goals and 19 points. Her play earned her MAAC Offensive Player of the Week honors this time around.
Koch, a native of the Netherlands, credited her teammates, saying they made the transition to a new style of play very easy.
“I think my recognitions by the MAAC are a credit to the whole team,” she said. “The team welcomed me and helped me adjust to the American way of playing field hockey, and for that I’m very grateful.”
Against La Salle, Rider had to show resiliency after falling into an early 2-0 hole. Tallying three unanswered goals, the Broncs left Philadelphia with the win. All the goals were scored in the first half. Freshman goalie Grace Huff picked up the win, playing the final 59 minutes.
Senior midfielder Kalyn O’Brien got the Broncs going offensively, cutting the deficit to 2-1 just 10:49 into the game. Freshman forward Tess Coorens was able to tie the score at two with seven minutes remaining in the half, after receiving a nice feed from Koch.
With just 4:05 remaining in the first half, Randazzo scored her third goal of the season and the third goal of the game for the Broncs. It would end up as the game-winner.
Against St. Francis two days later, a comeback wasn’t necessary. In her first collegiate start, Huff made three saves en route to a 3-0 victory.
Exactly seven minutes into the contest, senior forward Carlie Spaeder took a 60-yard pass from junior back Melissa Cunningham and went in all alone on the keeper. She scored for a 1-0 Rider lead.
Three minutes into the second half, Koch scored again to make it 2-0. Her goal came after a rebound from a Spaeder shot.
With 17 minutes left in regulation, junior forward and Preseason All-MAAC selection Allison Baligian scored her third goal of the year, with an assist from Randazzo. It was the 16th time in 18 tries that the Broncs downed the Red Flashes.
In a 4-1 win at Colgate on Sept. 25, Koch played a big role yet again. She netted two goals and picked up an assist.
The first goal of the game came off the stick of Koch just 10 minutes in. Cunningham picked up another assist as the Broncs led 1-0.
Rider led 2-0 at the break after Koch’s second goal of the game, with an assist from junior forward Lauren Bock. Spaeder and freshman forward Jade Freeberg each added a goal in the second half.
With just 1:20 left in the game, Colgate was able to get on the board. It was the first time all season Huff allowed a goal. She had previously been enjoying a shutout streak of over 200 minutes to begin her college career.
It was the third year in a row that the Broncs took down Colgate. The team will now get a much-deserved week off before heading up to Columbia on Oct. 2. The first MAAC game will be against Bryant on Oct. 9.
O’Brien thinks these wins will give the team a really positive mindset.
“The most intense, and obviously the most important, part of the season is MAAC play,” she said. “Winning the last three games has made this team hungry and we hope this momentum continues.”