By Brandon Scalea
After winning eight of 12 non-conference games, the field hockey team split its first weekend of MAAC play in two contests against Fairfield and Monmouth.
On Oct. 16, the Broncs hosted their annual “Play 4 the Cure” game at Ben Cohen Field when they took on Fairfield in the conference opener. A goal from freshman midfielder Jessica Randazzo off a penalty corner broke a 4-4 tie with 2:58 remaining in the game as the Broncs (9-5, 1-1 MAAC) topped the Stags 5-4.
“It really was a situation where we turned a negative into a postive by coming out with the win,” Head Coach Lori Hussong said. “It is never fun to give away a three-goal lead. But for our girls to reverse the momentum of the game like that, against a good team, it’s huge.”
This game was a tale of two halves. Rider dominated the first one as junior forward Carlie Spaeder opened the scoring just 6:16 into the game off a set-up from Randazzo. It was the first of two goals in this game for Spaeder, who was last week’s MAAC Offensive Player of the Week.
Just over two minutes later, Fairfield (4-7, 0-2 MAAC) tied the game at 1 after a goal off a penalty corner by sophomore forward Erin Buckley.
The Broncs struck right back, however. Junior midfielder Carlota Alsina netted her fourth of the season after taking a pass from sophomore back Melissa Cunningham with nine minutes left in the half.
Three minutes later, sophomore forward Allison Baligian converted a penalty stroke for her 10th goal of the season. But Rider wasn’t done there.
With just 1:38 left in the half, Spaeder stick-handled the ball seemingly from one end of the field to the other and hit the back of the cage for her 10th goal of the season, giving the Broncs a commanding 4-1 lead at intermission.
The second half, however, was all Fairfield. As the Stags’ senior goalie Caitlin Bennett stood tall for four saves, they stormed back with three goals in an 11-minute span to tie the game at 4.
As the game approached the end of regulation with Fairfield controlling the momentum, Randazzo was in the right place at the right time. After a shot was blocked by Bennett, Randazzo took the loose ball off the rebound and sent it home. The 5-4 lead would hold for the rest of the contest and give the Broncs their first MAAC win of the season.
Randazzo credited her teammates for setting her up perfectly for the goal.
“It was a great feeling to have the game-winner, but I definitely couldn’t have done it without my team,” she said. “During that corner, my teammates did all the dirty work and I just happened to be right there. I wasn’t even trying to shoot, just to send it to the opposite post.”
Two days later, Rider was dealt its first conference loss of the season against the defending champion, Monmouth.
Despite two more goals from Baligian, putting her total to a team-leading 12, Monmouth used a last-minute goal of its own to pull off the win.
This time, the game-winner was scored with 2:05 left, as the Hawks broke a 3-3 tie with a shot to the left side of sophomore goalie Hannah Isaacs. Sophomore forward Teresa Warner picked up the goal.
For the second game in a row, the Broncs gave up a lead in the second half. Randazzo netted her fourth of the season to give the Broncs a 2-1 lead 2:08 into the second half. Just moments later, the Hawks tied the game.
In the 14th minute of the half, Baligian scored her second of the night, but Monmouth tied it up on a post deflection just three minutes later, and would ultimately prevail with a goal at 31:55.
Rider will host Quinnipiac on Oct. 23 at Ben Cohen Field.