Rider remains winless after Iona sweep

By Dylan Manfre

With its leading returning scorer out with an ankle injury, the depth of the women’s basketball team that head coach Lynn Milligan talked about early in the season was tested over its series against Iona.

Another rough effort saw Rider fall 56-40 to the Iona Gaels, which swept the season series as the Broncs are still winless through eight games. The Gaels were winless as well heading into the series.

Since junior guard Amanda Mobley is out indefinitely with the ankle injury, the longest tenured players on the roster are the returning sophomore guards in Sophia DeMauro and Maya Hyacienth — with the exception of guard Lauren Saa, who is out with a knee injury and center Victoria Toomey, who Milligan said has entered concussion protocol.

While the team does have the depth at multiple positions, now it is time to put the depth to the test and try some new lineups.

“We got after them a little bit in the fourth quarter [playing] full-court man [defense], I think there’s things we can do if we have the depth,” Milligan said. “I’m glad we were kind of able to see those things tonight. … But every time we seem to get a rotation set, somebody goes down. We’ve just had some bad luck these last couple of weeks.”

The Broncs dressed nine players and everyone from junior forward Anna Ekerstedt to junior forward Teresa Wolak saw minutes off the bench against the Gaels on Dec. 19.

The Broncs came out playing a zone defense and their success playing zone kept a good pace to the game. Iona only held a 19-15 lead at the second media timeout. All five points were scored by freshman forward Raphaela Toussaint who started out the game 2-for-4 and with eight rebounds.

She finished the game with 12 rebounds as the team ended with 35, three off its season high.

Four different players scored for Rider as it went into halftime down seven, however, 13 first half turnovers plagued them. It is something Milligan is concerned by.

“We’re not giving ourselves enough opportunities on offense because of the turnovers,” Milligan said. “We’re taking a lot of opportunities away from ourselves which puts a lot of pressure on the shots [we are] getting. We got to make sure we can just handle pressure better, make better decisions and give ourselves more opportunities.”

What also plagued them was the third quarter. Milligan said Rider has not had a “good third quarter yet” after the first meeting with Manhattan. Those 10 minutes belonged to Olivia Vezaldenos. She outscored Rider by herself 11-8 in the quarter as the Broncs shot 2-for-10 from the field.

Vezaldenos finished with a team-high 16 points off the bench on 6-of-10 shooting. 

Just as aggressive was freshman guard Makayla Firebaugh. She had five of Rider’s seven points with 3:25 left in the final quarter. Heading into the series, Firebaugh said she thought the Broncs could pull out a win and cited “fundamentals” for why they didn’t. 

Even though they did not, and fell to 0-8 on the year, she believes they are close to breaking that streak.

“We definitely are,” said Firebaugh, who finished with 12 point on 5-of-13 shooting and had five steals. “It’s there.”

Rider’s next game is on Dec. 23 away against New Jersey Institute of Technology (NJIT) at 2 p.m. on ESPN+.

Follow Dylan Manfre on Twitter for the latest on the women’s basketball team.

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