By Stephen Neukam
The women’s soccer team traveled to Niagara on Sept. 22 and suffered a 2-1 loss at the hands of the Purple Eagles.
The Broncs took the first lead of the game in the 36th minute on a goal from senior back Meghan McCabe, who capitalized on a corner kick from junior midfielder Valeria Pascuet, making it the fourth game in a row that Rider pegged the opening score.
It was McCabe’s first goal of the season and seventh of her collegiate career. Pascuet also notched her third assist of this year’s campaign.
The lead was short-lived as Niagara would equalize just 26 seconds later through a goal by junior forward Hailey Bucknell. This was largely uncharted territory for Rider as they had only surrendered a lead once before this trip up north.
The tie would continue throughout the remainder of the first half and much of the second.
The Purple Eagles would eventually break the deadlock in the 71st minute by slotting home a penalty kick scored by junior forward Kelsey Araujo. The foul to give away the kick was uncharacteristic of the Broncs, as they have been whistled for infractions just 37 times this year — the second lowest in the conference. The most penalized team is Niagara.
Niagara extended their winning streak to four games, which was the longest of the season for any MAAC team.
The loss was Rider’s first in the conference and snapped a three-game winning streak.
Broncs Head Coach Drayson Hounsome was disappointed after the game and felt the team missed too many opportunities to make an impact.
“We definitely let one go today but credit to Niagara for their immediate response to going down a goal,” said Hounsome. “We had plenty of chances to score more goals but didn’t take them. We will look to get three points [from the next game].”
Rider dropped to 5-3-1 overall with the loss and saw their conference record fall to 1-1. The Broncs currently sit fourth in the MAAC.
Niagara is perched atop the conference with a 2-0 record, followed by Quinnipiac and Monmouth. Four teams in the MAAC have a 1-1 record, with Rider and Monmouth being joined by Canisius and St. Peter’s.
Although it is early in the conference competition, Rider looks like one of the stronger 1-1 teams of the bunch, in contrast to St. Peter’s who has posted a 1-7 overall record.
The standings should begin to take shape as soon as MAAC play continues to unfold.
Through the first nine games of the season, the Broncs’ statistical leaders are largely unsurprising. Senior forward Kourtney Cunningham leads the team in goals with five, which puts her second in the entire conference. Valeria holds the top spot in total assists for the team.
Sophomore goalkeeper Carmen Carbonell, who has started a majority of games between the sticks for Rider, has posted 65 saves and an 87.8 save percentage, which is second in the MAAC.
If Carbonell continues to save shots at this rate, it would be the highest save rate since the university started storing statistics online in 2003.
The team also has their fans to thank for the support, as Rider ranks second in home game attendance so far this season, falling just behind Siena.
The Broncs will miss freshman back Niamh Cashin for an upcoming game against Iona on Oct. 3. Cashin, who is from Nottingham, England, has been called up to the national team ahead of the Union of European Football Association U19 Championship. The team will play three matches in Croatia, facing Malta, Croatia and Slovakia in the first round of qualifying.
The freshman is one of just five current Division I players named to the squad. The other players come from a list of schools — Louisiana State, Florida, Oklahoma and Arizona State.
Cashin missed the early part of the Rider season due to another call up from the international team for a summer training camp.
“[The girls] have welcomed me back,” said Cashin following her arrival after the summer camp in England. “They were all there for me [during the trip].”
She was part of the topdrawersoccer.com National Team of the Week after scoring her first career goal against two-time defending MAAC Champion Monmouth on Sept. 16.
The Broncs will continue conference play away from home in games that are critical to tournament qualification and seeding.
Rider will resume its road trip, this time traveling to Fairfield, which has a 5-4-1 record, on Sept. 26 at 7 p.m.
The Broncs then will return home on Sept. 29 to face Marist, which sits two spots behind Rider in the conference, at 1 p.m. at Ben Cohen Field.