By Kim Leder
The Rider field hockey team continued its reign of dominance last Friday when it clinched its spot in the NEC Championship game for the ninth time with a 4-2 win over Quinnipiac. A slick shot was scored Saturday when the women beat out Monmouth 1-0 for the NEC Championship title, leading them to the NCAA play-in game on Tuesday. But it was Albany’s time to shine that afternoon when it ended Rider’s 13-game winning streak with a 2-1 victory.
On Friday, it all started with a backhand shot off a pass from sophomore Sandra Penas assisted by sophomore Marlaine Schneider to put Rider on the board early on in the game against Quinnipiac (8-10, 4-3 NEC). Senior Lindsey Rajeski continued moments later in the 19th minute, scoring off a corner play assisted by junior Virginia Egusquiza and freshman Alicia Govannicci.
By halftime, Rider had stayed strong by ending the first frame leading 2-1 after Quinnipiac stole a goal to cut the deficit.
“We knew going into the semifinal round that we were going to have to be at the top of our game in order to succeed,” said head coach Lori Hussong. “Our team played with spirit and intensity the entire game and left nothing on the field.”
The Broncs came out in the second half and only let the Bobcats score once more. With 14 minutes left, Egusquiza scored her 11th goal of the season as she converted on a penalty stroke, rounding out the scoring. Junior goalkeeper Rebecca Lotito won her 12th start in a row with two saves.
“The win was hard fought and well deserved,” Hussong said. “Our captains did an outstanding job of motivating our team to come out on fire.”
Against Monmouth (15-5, 6-1 NEC) on Saturday afternoon, the winning goal came when Govannicci scored on a rebound with 3:01 remaining in the second half to end the scoreless tie and give Rider the NEC Championship game. The goal, assisted by Egusquiza, was Govannicci’s seventh of the season.
Lotito recorded her seventh shutout as goalie with three saves.
“The experience of winning the NEC championship was one of the most amazing feelings because we deserved it 100 percent and got to share it with such a great group of girls,” said Schneider.
Rider ended up out-shooting Monmouth 16-4 and held a 15-5 penalty corner advantage.
“We are so proud of each and every member on this team and happy that all of their hard work has paid off,” Hussong said.
This became Rider’s fourth NEC Championship, having won in 2000, 2002 and 2004. In addition, the Broncs won the NEC regular season title for the second year in a row, going 7-0 in conference play.
The Broncs went to Albany to take on the 15th-ranked team in the nation and played well but came up a little short.
In fact, the game became tied at 1-1 when junior Megan Pisani got a rebound off of a shot by sophomore Jackie Adams.
Both teams had seven shots, including four shots on goal, with Rider goalkeeper Lotito making two saves. In addition, Egusquiza and Pisani each made two of Rider’s shots.
Albany had taken a 1-0 lead just nine minutes into the game on a rebound after a penalty corner. Albany’s 2-1 lead came in the 42nd minute when Christina Patrick scored her team-high 13th goal.
“We tried our hardest and came off the field knowing that we gave our all and it just was not meant to be, but next year we will go even further,” Schneider said.