By Dylan Manfre
For the first time since the end of the 2019-2020 season, Rider women’s basketball was able to play in front of a live home fanbase. Players warmed up unmasked and Alumni Gym was decorated with its normal game-day attire. The Rider Pep Band was on the stage, cheerleaders lined the entrance and the Rider Dance Team sat in the student section. It was as normal of a game as Rider has experienced since 2020.
As expected, Rider won 68-42 over its Division III Route 206 rival TCNJ. The Broncs did so with the support of three new players and an assistant coach that stems from head coach Lynn Milligan’s list of former athletes.
Sophomore forward Raphaela Toussaint, who was an All-MAAC Rookie-Team selection, had a remarkable start in the first quarter of the game scoring 11 of Rider’s 24 points. Toussaint seemed to continue the strong start she had as a freshman that ultimately led to her securing a starting spot.
Defensively, she had three rebounds and a block in eight first-quarter minutes, the second most of the starting group. Toussaint impressed many with her offensive rounds too, grabbing five by the end of the game. She finished the game with a double-double of 20 points and 12 boards.
“I was just trying to track the ball,” Toussaint said. “I had a little bit of trouble with grabbing it sometimes, but I’m trying to keep doing what I do.”
Senior guard Lenaejha Evans was a great complement to Toussaint off the glass with six boards entering the final quarter of action. Evans developed a sweet pull-up jumper that she displayed plenty of times vs. TCNJ. Head Coach Lynn Milligan said the move is very “Amari-esque” referring to the silky jumper from former forward and 2020 All-MAAC Second Team member Amari Johnson.
Evans showed off her transition game with a beautiful Euro-step midway through the fourth quarter.
“I feel like I’m starting to understand things more, just feel like my old self,” Evans said.“I think the team chemistry has been clicking and everything so it’s helped me a lot.”
Rider brought in junior Jessika Schiffer, a 5-foot-9 transfer guard from the University of Buffalo, to the roster in addition to two freshmen, Madison Johnson and Emily Strunk.
Johnson did not play because of a leg injury and was on crutches.
Schiffer, who averaged four points per game with Buffalo, spaced the floor well and had good movement off-the-ball. She took two shots and missed both in her first few minutes of action but found her footing and ended the game with five points.
“Jess has been doing that all through practice and in our last scrimmage,” Milligan said of her new transfer. “She’s a big strong guard.”
Five players had come off the bench by halftime and it was not too impressive, with the Broncs only scoring a total of nine points on a combined 4-for-12 from the field. All of them were scored by Evans, who is in her second year with the team.
Now that Rider’s lone tuneup is out of the way, its regular season begins on Nov. 11 at Penn State at 7 p.m. As far as conference play is concerned, while that is quite far from now, Milligan said this could be the most competitive season yet.
“I think everybody’s roster looks a bit different than maybe they anticipated a year or so ago,” Milligan said. “I think the conference is going to be exceptionally well.”