By Carlos Toro
The Broncs’ journey toward a second straight MAAC championship began on the right foot, as they won their conference opener and extended their winning streak to three games.
A big part of this success is because of the play of goalkeeper Bethany-May Howard. Howard was awarded the MAAC Defensive Player of the Week two straight weeks in a row, not having allowed a goal in any of the past three games. Head coach Drayson Hounsome commended Howard for her contributions to the team.
“Bethany-May continues to impress and make important saves at crucial moments in the game,” Hounsome said. “When there has been outstanding play by the opposition, Beth has matched their play with her efforts.”
Rider’s (4-3, 1-0 MAAC) streak began with its home opener on Sept. 9 against Delaware State (2-7-1). After a 50-minute lightning delay, Rider’s offense struck three goals in the first half of the game, the first coming from sophomore Alanna McDougall after junior Caroline Healy’s assist from a corner kick.
The second goal came from freshman Meghan McCabe in the 32nd minute. The third and final goal for the Broncs occurred when Healy scored on a header just two minutes after the second goal.
Delaware State did not muster up much offense, shooting only four times throughout the game with three being on target, but Howard stopped all of those shots for her first shutout of the season.
Rider then traveled to NJIT (2-5) for their final non-conference game of the season. This was a great test for the Broncs as NJIT had played against five MAAC opponents at that point, going 2-3 in those games.
The Highlanders’ offense was on point in the first half, shooting nine times, with six on target. Once again, the Broncs held their own and stopped everything that NJIT threw at them.
The Broncs managed to get a goal in from sophomore Shannon Kelly, her first in her collegiate career, in the 70th minute. The goal came from an assist by junior Hollie Kelsh’s pass from the right side to Kelly, who was inside the goalkeeper’s box to get the winning goal. The goal was the highlight of a second half that saw Rider control the game and have more offensive opportunities.
The two non-conference victories showcased the team’s improvements as it transitioned into a new formation that so far has been doing well. Kelsh said that they have been practicing a 4-4-2 formation, which succeeded against NJIT and Delaware State.
“We worked on it through training and did different runs with it,” Kelsh said. “We came into Delaware State where it all came together, and we were happy with the results. We played NJIT with this formation, and it worked really well.”
After beating NJIT and improving their record to .500, the Broncs traveled to Quinnipiac (4-3, 0-1 MAAC) for the first game of MAAC play. The opening 45 minutes had Quinnipiac’s offense shoot three times on goal in the first 15 minutes, with Howard blocking all of them.
Healy opened up the scoring for Rider in the 38th minute for her second goal of the season when McDougall made the assist. Quinnipiac ended the first half with only four shots on target, but the second half saw a lot more shooting from the home team.
After Rider scored the second goal in the 55th minute thanks to freshman Sam Picinich’s first goal of her collegiate career, Quinnipiac put pressure on the Broncs with its offense. The Bobcats had five shots on target, all of which were blocked as the Broncs won their conference opener 2-0.
“Every (conference) game we are looking to get three points, which is not necessarily the priority in pre-season and non-conference contests,” Hounsome said. “Those games are more about building match fitness and improving performance.”
Rider’s conference schedule continues as it travels to Poughkeepsie, N.Y., on Sept. 26 to face off against Marist. The last time these two teams played each other, the game ended in a 2-2 tie at Ben Cohen Field at Rider.