By Thomas Regan
The women’s soccer team secured its third in-conference victory on Oct. 11 against Quinnipiac; however, the win came with a huge loss, as its leading-scorer, junior midfielder Tara Ballay, suffered a leg injury.
Without Ballay and her 11 goals, the Broncs (9-4-1, 4-2-1 MAAC) went on the road for matchups against Niagara on Oct. 15 and Manhattan on Oct. 18, dropping the first game, but winning the second.
Against Niagara, the Rider offense wasted little time in proving it could score without Ballay, as sophomore midfielder Victoria Maley put a shot past Niagara’s goalkeeper in the 14th minute to take a 1-0 lead.
The goal put the Broncs in a rhythm to the tune of four unanswered shots, though none found the back of the net. Rider’s inability to capitalize on those opportunities allowed Niagara to fire back with two shots of their own. The sudden momentum shift led to the Broncs allowing an own goal in the 33rd minute, tying the game at one apiece.
The second half opened up with a shot from Rider’s sophomore midfielder Hollie Kelsh that was saved by Niagara’s goalkeeper, resulting in a corner kick. However, a Bronc foul forced a change of possession and despite a subsequent offside penalty against the Purple Eagles, Niagara took advantage. After four shots and a corner kick for Niagara, the Purple Eagles pulled away with a goal in the 60th minute to give them a 2-1 lead that would hold for the remainder of the contest. Not only were the Broncs dealt their second conference loss, but they also lost their second best scorer, sophomore forward Michelle Iacono to injury.
Head Coach Drayson Hounsome believes the loss had a lot to do with the long and tiresome commute to the road game.
“We had to sit on a bus for eight hours, so that makes a huge difference,” Hounsome said. “So you take that Niagara game with a pinch of salt. It is what it is. Everyone’s got to play it.”
Without Iacono, and still down their star midfielder, the Broncs looked to move back in to the win column with a home match against Manhattan.
Despite an eventful start to the game that saw Rider take seven shots and Manhattan do their best to match with six of their own, neither team scored until the 45th minute. Rider received its first goal from freshman forward Ellie Smith in the final minute of the half before allowing the Jaspers to tie it up only seconds later.
Coming out of the half, the Broncs appeared re-energized with a pace the Jaspers were unable to match. In the 52nd minute of the contest, freshman forward Carissa Sanchez scored, putting the Broncs in front 2-1. Not long after Rider took the lead, Sanchez added a 58th-minute goal, her second of the game, to put Rider ahead 3-1.
Sanchez credits her team for helping create opportunities for her to score.
“Without the help of my teammates, I wouldn’t have scored my two goals,” Sanchez said. “Caroline Healy assisted both my goals with a cross from the left side, which allowed me to finish and place the ball in the net. At the end of the day, as long as we got the win that’s what matters the most.”
Hounsome acknowledges his change in game plan as the reason for his team’s offensive outburst.
“We dominated the first half with possession, without really creating too many chances,” Hounsome said. “So, we needed to tweak our formation a little bit, which we did, and so we ended up with more attacking players in the last 10 minutes of the first half and then we continued that going into the second half. So it was more we just changed the formation slightly, which allowed us to be more offensive.”
Rider continued its dominant play with eight shots over the final 30 minutes, including two opportunities for Sanchez to score her third goal. However, the Broncs were unable to score again and the Jaspers were only able to muster one shot for the entirety of the second half, which gave the Broncs their fourth conference win of the season.
Rider will continue in-conference play with games against St. Peter’s in Jersey City, N.J., and Siena in Loudonville, N.Y., on Oct. 22 and 25, respectively.