By Josh Veltrie
The women’s basketball team didn’t have the Thanksgiving break it had hoped for, as the Broncs lost both games they played in the Florida Gulf Coast University (FGCU) Thanksgiving Classic.
Rider (1-5 overall) was defeated 79-43 by Akron on Friday, Nov. 28, and lost 78-46 at the hands of the host of the tournament, FGCU.
With senior Tammy Meyers, a pre-season First Team All-MAAC selection, suspended for two contests for a violation of team rules, the Broncs struggled offensively as they shot under 33 percent from the field in both games.
Against Akron (2-3 overall), senior Amanda Sepulveda led Rider with 17 points as the only Bronc to break double figures in the scoring column.
“Amanda did a great job for us all weekend,” Head Coach Lynn Milligan said. “She plays a lot of minutes for us and she understands her role as a senior leader and point guard.”
The Zips shot 46 percent from the field as the Broncs struggled to compile stops against them throughout the game.
“We ran into a hot team in Akron,” Milligan said. “We were exposed defensively and whenever we made a mistake, they made us pay for it.”
In the first meeting ever between Rider and Akron in women’s basketball, the Zips forced 26 turnovers as they snapped a three-game losing streak while the Broncs lost their second in a row.
In the second game of the classic, Rider was simply overmatched by a FGCU team that saw all five starters return from last season when the Eagles made it to the Women’s National Invitation Tournament.
Three-point defense hurt the Broncs as they gave up 12 treys during the game.
“Whenever they were open for three, they did not miss,” Milligan said. “They are a very good, experienced team and although the score might not show it, we played a lot better against FGCU than against Akron.”
Sepulveda was the only scorer in double digits for the second game in a row as she scored 11 points. Freshman Caitlin Bopp also had a solid game, compiling eight points and nine boards for the Broncs.
Sophomore Lauren Gregg had seven points while freshman Dior Brown grabbed eight rebounds for Rider, which has now lost three straight.
“We really needed these five days of practice before our next game to refocus,” Milligan said. “Practice time is very important because we have a lot of seniors and freshmen on the court at the same time during games.”
Sepulveda, after leading the MAAC in minutes played last year, played 34 and 36 minutes against Akron and FGCU, respectively.
The return of Meyers should help Sepulveda and might add a spark to what has been a disappointing season thus far for the Broncs.
Meyers led the team in multiple categories last season, averaging 14.2 ppg, while also compiling 101 assists and 55 steals. She was named the Most Valuable Player for Rider while also being named to the Second Team All-MAAC.
“Tammy has been practicing very hard this week and will be ready to go this weekend,” Milligan said.
Rider will look to snap its three game losing streak when the team travels to Fordham on Saturday, Dec. 5, for a 1 p.m. game. The Broncs then host rival Princeton on Tuesday, Dec. 8, at 7 p.m.
With conference games not starting until Jan. 3, Rider will be looking to gain some momentum this month and will hopefully be clicking when the MAAC schedule begins.
“The rest of our non-conference schedule is very important,” Milligan said. “We have to use these games to help build our team chemistry.”