By Dylan Manfre
Rider field hockey’s 2-1 victory over Merrimack was rather surprising. It played a Merrimack team that was winless heading into the game on Oct. 1 and whose head coach was only coaching her second game.
However, the Warriors were able to get a ball in the net first and gave the defending Northeast Conference (NEC) champions a legitimate run for their money.
Head Coach Lori Hussong said it was a “gutsy” win and that Merrimack is “better than their record.”
Senior midfielder Julia Divorra had two goals in the third quarter. Unlike the three goals she had in the first quarter the last time these two programs met, Divorra had to really work for these opportunities and compensate for the missed goal chances throughout the first half.
Merrimack had Rider’s number in the first 15 minutes by the way it backed the Broncs against the wall defensively. Though only one shot was taken by either team in the opening quarter, Merrimack was the better team and pushed Rider back to its end of the field quite a bit. Rider was lackadaisical, to say the least.
The game was scoreless after one quarter of action. This is a polar opposite from the last first quarter when these two programs met. Divorra already had a hat trick when the horn blasted after 15 minutes. Rider’s corner execution struggled a bit early as Merrimack swarmed the circle and intercepted pass opportunities.
Senior midfielder Tess van Ommeren had a rare stroke opportunity blocked by a diving save to the right part of the goal from Merrimack’s goalkeeper Brooke Bolduc with just over nine minutes left in the first half.
Carly Brosious, who was the hero in the overtime game against Hofstra, later in the quarter, had a one-on-one opportunity. The all-conference midfielder is as good as anyone in those types of situations but Bolduc forced her right for a rare miss from Brosious. She ended the game with a team-high seven shots.
Rider ended the half down a goal after Merrimack’s Lauren Burke converted a stroke opportunity and got a ball past Tomas, a pretty rare occurrence. Tomas has a .737 career save percentage.
Another ‘gutsy’ win
The Broncs’ 2-1 win over Lock Haven, Hussong also described as gutsy.
“When [the score] is 1-1 going into the second half, it’s always a gutsy win,” Hussong said. “Lock Haven, traditionally, is a very tough team to beat. If you look over the history of our program, traditionally we go into overtime an awful lot with them.”
The game was tied at one entering halftime and Divorra pointed out communication issues in the first half that contributed to the Broncs’ early demise.
“Communication is key, in defense and in attacking,” said Divorra who had the second Rider goal of the game. “At the first half [the communication] wasn’t [good]. We got together, we cheered each other up and we made it work.”
There was a strong sense of a defensive mentality in the second half. Being able to hold Lock Haven scoreless showed a lot of Rider’s defensive prowess, especially since the Bald Eagles were doing everything they could to draw Tomas further out of the goal.
Junior defender Maeve Riehman was happy overall that Lock Haven did not get off many shots, especially in the second half.
“I think the defense played well in the first half,” Riehman said. “The second half, we came in big in the last couple minutes. … We communicated through the problems.”
Rider’s first goal was scored by freshman Alyssa Hoffman, who has been shuffled in and out of the starting lineup throughout the season. She has played a larger role of late since freshman Abby Hartwell has been out with an injury. Hussong said Hartwell’s timetable to retrun is day-to-day. The Broncs travel to Fairfield on Oct. 8 for its next NEC contest. The game will be streamed on Facebook Live at 4 p.m.