By Tristan Leach
As the chilly October air settled over the night, a line stretching past Daly’s Dining Hall could be seen forming. The doors of Alumni Gym swept open, and eager students rushed inside as another MAACness began.
On Oct. 7, the beloved tradition returned to campus, marking the opening of season for Rider basketball. The theme for this year’s MAACness was Disco Fever and several events were held throughout the night to look forward to.
When students and guests entered the gym, they were welcomed by Rider dance and cheerleading teams. AJ the Bronc was also out on the court sporting a white suit reminiscent of John Travolta’s from “Saturday Night Fever.” As excited attendees poured in, some of the dancers and cheerleaders came to hug their friends and family members. The joy of the event was infectious.
Dajia Wilson, a sophomore criminal justice major and returning member to the cheer team was amongst the excited greeters on the floor.
“As a cheerleader I love the energy that MAACness brings. With all of us on the floor, the cheer team, dance team, basketball teams, we’re all having fun. It’s mainly the energy,” said Wilson.
To kick off the night, AJ and some members of the dance team performed a dance to disco music. After the introduction of the mascot, it was time to count down to the 2022-2023 basketball season. Some attendees could be heard shouting “Happy MAACness,” after the clock ran out.
Just as the year before, a reel of the best moments from the previous season played. Students cheered for their favorite player as their face flashed across the screen. This was the perfect set up for the introduction of the men’s and women’s team.
Each team member came out from behind a curtain perched on the stage at the far end of the court. The members were introduced with their name, where they’re from, position and height as friends and family members cheered for their loved ones. Each player tossed a Rider t-shirt into the audience and people leapt from their seats in hopes of catching one. After all the team members were introduced the head coaches and assistant coaches came onto the court.
Throughout the night, there were some fun competitions. The games included musical basketball chairs and a quick change game, where two participants put on an oversized basketball uniform and then tried to make the basket first. The prizes for these competitions were Visa gift cards.
In between games, several other events took place. It was announced that for the first time a number from the women’s team was being retired. This event is scheduled for Nov. 7 and will honor Stella Johnson, who graduated in 2020 and was drafted into the WNBA. Lynn Mulligan, the head coach for the women’s team, thanked everyone who was in attendance for making it possible for the school to honor past team members.
Next, it was time for Rider Cheerleading to perform. The team pulled out all the stops with new tricks that had the audience oohing and aahing.
Rachel Seigerman, a junior arts and entertainment industries management major and returning member on the cheer team, said, “I’m always excited about MAACness because it is a chance for the cheerleading team to come out and show off. A lot of people don’t know that Rider has a cheerleading team. We get to do a really fun, cool routine to wow Rider.”
After the performance from the cheerleading team it was time to meet this year’s nominees for Cranberry Court. The winners will be announced at Cranberry and White Affair.
Before the end of the night, AJ the Bronc donned his basketball uniform for the final competition of the evening, a skills contest between the men’s and women’s team. Four members of each team competed against each other, then the winner of those two would face each other. This year, it came down to junior forward Raphaela Toussaint of the women’s team and senior guard Dwight Murray Jr. of the men’s team. In the end, Toussaint won, earning another victory for the women’s team.
To end the night, the Rider Dance Team took the floor. The team performed a mix of disco and modern music. The routine featured many tricks and a costume change that had the audience screaming. At the end of their performance, the team took a bow and the night was officially over.
McKenzie Jones, a senior criminal justice major, is the president of Rider Dance Team. Jones has been on the team since her freshman year and has participated in three MAACness events.
“I think what sets MAACness apart from other schools is that we’re so unique in what we do,” said Jones. “I feel like everyone contributes to the high energy and positivity of getting ready for the MAAC season.”
Lianne Litchfield, a sophomore film and television major, said, “I thought it was very loud and very fun.”
Students and guests shared Litchfield’s sentiment as they left the gym chatting excitedly with each other.
Let another great season begin.
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