By Valerie Palmer
A historic day for Rider women’s soccer occurred on Oct. 24. Even as the Broncs honored Tara Ballay on Senior Day, junior goalkeeper Bethany May-Howard picked up her 14th career shutout, a Rider record, in an overtime win over Fairfield.
After 90 minutes of regulation time, neither team could put the ball in the back of the net, despite Rider dominating in shot total, 16-7.
Just 3:27 into the first 10-minute overtime period, freshman forward Kourtney Cunningham, assisted by sophomore forward Ellie Smith, scored the Golden Goal right in front of the net.
Head Coach Drayson Hounsome felt that once his team settled down, they were able to make the difference in the game.
“Throughout the game we were thinking about ways to create more attacking opportunities,” he said. “Once we accomplished that, we were able to come out with the win.”
Cunningham leads the team in points with 15 and is ranked seventh in the MAAC.
Cunningham credited her coaching staff for her success in only her first year playing collegiate soccer.
“I’m getting a lot of support from the coaches in terms of skill and my mental approach to games,” she said. “It feels good to contribute so much as a freshman, but I feel that I have a lot of things to work on to help our team in the postseason.”
The win secured an undefeated home season for the Broncs (9-5, 6-2 MAAC).
Howard made six saves to clench the shutout. This is her eighth of the season and ninth shutout for Rider this year. She is currently ranked first in the MAAC and 16th in the nation with saves per match (6.64). She is 11th in the nation for save percentage (.886).
Ballay has played 50 games in her Rider career, earning several accolades including MAAC Preseason Player of the Year, Academic All-American, All-East Region, ECAC All-Star, MAAC Player of the Year and MAAC Rookie of the Year. Hounsome described the impact that his senior back has had on the program.
“She is definitely the most decorated [player],” Hounsome said. “She has won a MAAC Championship, appeared in an NCAA Tournament, and was named MAAC Player of the Year, while also being an Academic All-American. Not many student-athletes experience this type of success. She will be missed.”
Two years ago the Broncs played Fairfield (4-10-4, 1-5-3 MAAC) for their senior day, with a similar outcome.
When the Broncs played Fairfield in the 2014 MAAC Championship, the game ended in a 1-1 tie.
Rider closes out the regular season on Oct. 28 at Canisius. The first round of the MAAC Championship Tournament is Oct. 31.
The semifinals and finals will be Nov. 6-8 at Monmouth, which has clinched the regular season title.
According to Cunningham, the Broncs’ approach down the stretch is simple.
“We’ll work hard,” she said. “And we’ll stay focused. Everyone needs to work on improving for the tournament.”