By Paige McAtee
Rider’s field hockey team, the 2010 NEC regular season champion, is looking to make another name for itself as the NEC playoff champion after defeating two conference teams this past weekend. The Broncs now have an 11-game winning streak and finished a perfect 7-0 in the NEC.
Rider (14-3 overall, 7-0 NEC) defeated Monmouth (14-4 overall, 6-1 NEC), 3-0, on Friday, and then came back on Sunday and beat another tough team, Saint Francis (5-13 overall, 3-4 NEC), 5-1.
“Heading into the weekend we knew we had to be at our best in order to accomplish our goal of defeating Monmouth and Saint Francis and win the regular season title outright,” said head coach Lori Hussong.
A lot was riding on the line in the game against Monmouth. Rider will be hosting the NEC playoffs today and Saturday because of its first place regular season finish.
“We knew that a win against them would give us home seed advantage at this coming weekend’s NEC Championship,” said Hussong. “Our team played with intensity and was determined to get the job done.”
Junior Megan Pisani scored the game’s first goal. She was assisted by sophomore Jackie Adams, giving Rider a 1-0 lead.
Ten minutes into the second half, freshman Sandra Penas scored off a pass from freshman Alicia Govannicci.
Pisani scored her second goal of the game and her 12th of the season with just over 10 minutes left in the second half, with an assist from junior Virginia Egusquiza (see feature on p. 11 about Penas and Egusquiza).
Rider then defeated Saint Francis on Sunday, scoring five unanswered goals to clinch a perfect NEC regular season.
“Our game vs. Saint Francis was important, as a win against them would give us the outright regular season championship,” said Hussong.
At halftime, Rider was trailing Saint Francis 1-0. Junior goalie Rebecca Lotito had not allowed a single goal to be scored on her in conference play until 3:46 into the first half when her shutout streak was broken.
Despite dominating the first half with 17 shots on goal to St. Francis’ four, Rider was having trouble scoring.
However, the Broncs stepped into gear and scored five goals in the second half, including a hat trick by Pisani.
Rider broke out of its scoreless slump just two minutes into the second half. Govannicci scored off an assist from Penas. It was Govannicci’s sixth goal of the season.
Pisani scored the second goal of the game two minutes later off a cross pass from Penas and then Penas followed suit, firing in a score, which gave Rider a two-goal lead. Penas is the top freshman goal scorer in the country with 13 on the season.
Pisani then scored two more goals to complete her hat trick, both of which were assisted by Egusquiza.
Hussong and her players are determined to win the championship, and know that their success in the regular season does not mean that they don’t have to work for the wins in the playoffs, according to Hussong.
“We know from past experience that we cannot take anything for granted,” she said.
Rider will go against Quinnipiac (8-9 overall, 4-3 NEC) today at 1:30 p.m. in the semifinals of the postseason.
“Our first-round opponent, Quinnipiac, is a very good team and we will have to play our best to beat them,” said Hussong.
If the Broncs win the semifinals, the team will either go against Monmouth or Bryant (8-11 overall, 5-2 NEC) for the championship, which is scheduled for Saturday at noon.
“Monmouth and Bryant will be hard to beat as well and as most people know in postseason anything can happen,” Hussong said.
The odds are currently with Rider. The Broncs have already defeated all three possible NEC opponents this season. They defeated Quinnipiac 1-0, and won 3-0 against Monmouth and Bryant.
“Our defense is hard to score on and our offensive goal production has been tremendous,” said Hussong. “Everyone is working together and peaking at the right time.”