By Dylan Manfre
The field hockey team split its weekend slate against Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference opponent, the Monmouth Hawks, and nonconference foe, the Lock Haven Bald Eagles, on Sept. 28 and 30.
The first conference game for both Rider and Monmouth proved to be an intense battle which ended in a 2-1 victory for the Hawks.
Rider struck first thanks to freshman midfielder Kat Conroy, who scored her second of the year. Senior position-mate Jessica Randazzo was credited with her third assist of the campaign.
Randazzo commended her team’s offensive performance over the past few games.
“The offense has actually really pulled through this year,” Randazzo said. “I feel like the more we generate up the field, we can get it in there, we just have to play it inside the 25 [yards from the goal].”
Playing without injured freshman midfielder Julia Divorra, whose 17 points rank second highest on the team, caused the Broncs to make many adjustments to their offensive tactics. The team admitted that it’s going to take some work.
“Losing [Divorra,] we knew we had to step up completely,” Conroy said. “A lot of people are ready to step up. We tried to keep control of the ball as much as we could and I think everybody worked really hard today.”
Monmouth’s Georgia Garden Bachop scored the equalizer in the 19th minute of the first half and game-winning goal with two minutes left in regulation.
“Being [tied] 1-1 at halftime, I was really happy with that result,” Head Coach Lori Hussong said. “It was a 50-50 game at that point. Unfortunately, in the second half, they stepped up their game a notch and we didn’t respond to that. As it turns out, we were on our heals the entire time.”
Sophomore goalkeeper Lena Vandam, who was named the MAAC Defensive Player of the Week for the second time this season on Oct. 1, registered three saves.
For many of the Broncs, Monmouth was their first time experiencing a MAAC opponent. Conference games carry large implications. Each game is a must-win because only the top-four teams make the playoffs. Rider has made a postseason appearance each year under Hussong’s leadership.
“I think they’re learning as we go,” Hussong said. “It’s been a long process. I don’t think you can experience conference play until you’re really experiencing conference play. It’s a different level of intensity when every game is precious. As far as your playoff berth, you have to be confident with yourself and you have to come ready to play each game. There is no room to let up when it comes to conference play.”
Facing Lock Haven in a very lengthy matchup, Vandam recorded another stellar outing, saving 12 shots from going into the goal in Rider’s 1-0 double-overtime victory. The game went into a penalty shootout, which Rider won 2-1, putting the Broncs at an overall record of 5-5 and gave them their third straight road win. It also ended a two-game losing stretch.
The victory marks the first overtime win for the Broncs this season.
Junior midfielder Tess Coorens converted on the stroke attempt in the seventh round for the Broncs after neither Rider nor Lock Haven were able to put a ball in the cage.
The Broncs will face Virginia Commonwealth in another nonconference test on Oct. 3 to open the new month. The game will be streamed on ESPN+ at 11 a.m.
On Oct. 7, Rider will travel to LIU Brooklyn for their second game of the year against a MAAC opponent.
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