By Thomas Albano
The women’s soccer team (5-2-1, 0-0-1 MAAC) competed in its first conference game this season — a battle with Marist (1-5-1, 0-0-1 MAAC) on Sept. 21 that ended in a 2-2 tie.
Prior to this game, the last time the Broncs met Marist was in last season’s MAAC Tournament, where Rider was victorious. The team looked to have another successful game against the Red Foxes, but it did not start this game on the right foot.
In the seventh minute, Rider allowed an own goal into its net after it deflected off of a Bronc player’s head to give Marist a 1-0 lead. Head Coach Drayson Hounsome knew it wasn’t the best start, but understood that his team had to continue the game like normal and carry on to turn things around.
“We shouldn’t have given away the free kick,” Hounsome said. “They dumped the free kick in, comes off the back of our center back’s head and goes in. It’s just a bad goal to give away. They didn’t create the goal. It was poor positioning on our part. You shouldn’t come off the back of a player’s head, that’s not what we’re looking for. But those are the things we can tweak and fix.”
The rest of that first period would be a battle of shots. The Broncs had a total of nine in the half, while Marist had 11. However, neither team was able to put the ball into the opposing net, thanks to four saves by Rider’s sophomore goalkeeper Bethany-May Howard, and three saves by Marist’s freshman goalkeeper Ashley Houghton.
At the half, Hounsome told the team they may be down, but they were far from out of the contest.
“We knew if we played our game, we were going to score because we had good chances in the first half,” Hounsome said. “They wanted the ball in the air and we wanted it on the ground. If we were able to get the ball on the ground, we knew we would be able to create something.”
That something would turn into the first Rider goal of the match, which was scored by sophomore forward Hollie Kelsh in the 64th minute. The Red Foxes, however, would answer back with a goal in the 71st minute to make the score 2-1 in their favor.
Not to be outdone, the Broncs also fired back with another goal in the 75th minute, this one coming from junior back Tara Ballay with a key assist from freshman midfielder Ellie Smith.
Ballay, who now has seven goals and two assists this season, was happy that her teammate was able to benefit both her and the team by helping to create the scoring chance.
“I was thankful Ellie actually let it through and dummied it,” Ballay said. “She just had a great ball in so I was just more looking to them because they kind of set that up perfectly.”
With the score tied at two at the end of regulation, the teams headed into the two 10-minute overtime periods. There would only be three shots throughout overtime, all coming from Marist, but no goals would occur.
Hounsome’s view of Marist did not change following the tie.
“Coming into the game we saw them play and we felt we were better than them,” Hounsome said. “I think at the end of the day, we still feel we’re a better team than them, but the style that they play is very tough. They’re very physical, they play direct, they’re looking for you to make mistakes and capitalize on them. So I guess we’re disappointed, but the way the game goes it was competitive, we came back from goals down, so we’ll take a 2-2.”
The game ends a three-game winning streak for Rider, and snapped Marist’s four-game losing skid. The Broncs, however, still have yet to lose a game since being defeated by Temple at home on Sept. 5.
Moreover, out of all of Rider’s eight games thus far, this was the fourth game this season that has gone into overtime, which Ballay understands can cause a lot of wear and tear, but expects that from the competitiveness of soccer in NCAA Division I.
“It’s definitely more of a toll on the body and mind a little bit,” Ballay said. “We’ll try to avoid that a little more in the future, but we’ve been great grinding them out and we’ve kept it to one loss [in overtime].”
The team now travels to Connecticut to take on Fairfield (6-2-1) on Sept. 27 in hopes of their first conference win. Hounsome believes time of possession will be key in counteracting Fairfield’s fast pace.
“Fairfield’s going to try and knock the ball around so that’s going to be a better game for us,” Hounsome said. “They’re very good at moving the ball so we just need to make sure our press is good and then we can possess the ball at times as well.”