Rider wins weekend matches to clinch playoff berth

By Logan VanDine

In two close, hard-fought matches, the Rider field hockey team continued their winning streak as they took down both of their weekend opponents; Long Island University (LIU) and Wagner to move into a first place tie in the Northeast Conference (NEC) and clinch a playoff berth.

Six straight for the Broncs

In a gritty performance, the Rider field hockey team headed to New York to take on LIU, looking to make it six straight wins. The Broncs scored when it mattered and prevented the Sharks from tying or taking the lead, beating them 3-2 on Oct. 21, improving their record to 10-5 and 4-1 in NEC play.

The game remained scoreless midway through the first quarter until freshman forward Semra Said opened the scoring for the game, giving the Broncs an early lead.

The score remained deadlocked at 1-0 until late in the third quarter when freshman Valeria Perales made the score 2-0, with things looking good for the Broncs.

After the Sharks responded early in the fourth quarter with their first goal of the game, making the score 2-1, the Broncs responded. This time it was senior midfielder Sierra Giuliano making a beautiful shot, giving the Broncs a two score advantage of 3-1.

“I always try to put my best play out there every time I’m on the field, but I knew today was especially important, so I just gave it all I had. I was able to make some plays happen, but that’s never without the help of my teammates. At practice all week I was working on my reverse shot, so I’m glad it paid off to get the winning goal. Lyric [Scott] set me up perfectly with her pass,” Giuliano said.

The Sharks scored another goal pulling them within one of Rider at 3-2 in the final minutes, but the Broncs ran out the rest of the clock and secured their sixth win in a row.

“Our team played tough today and played well enough to win today. LIU is a dangerous team because they can move the ball down the field very quickly and score. We were happy that our team stood up to the pressure and played big in the toughest moments. Val [Perales], Indy [Zoontjens], Semra [Said], Sierra [Giuliano], Abby [Hartwell], Lyric [Scott] and Maeve [Riehman] played outstanding,” Head Coach Lori Hussong said.

A win on Senior Day

A lot of good things happened on this Senior Day for the Broncs. Not only did they defeat Wagner, clinched a playoff berth and moved into a first place tie with the Seahawks, but they also defeated Wagner on Oct. 23 to bring them to their seventh straight victory with a 2-0 win.

“So proud of our team’s performance today. It was determination and desire that helped us win the game. Everyone stepped up to the challenge, stayed with the game plan and took advantage of our scoring opportunities. Wagner’s defense was outstanding and hard to break through. It took a huge effort to generate any type of attack,” Hussong said. 

After a scoreless first quarter, the Broncs got the scoring started late in the second quarter thanks to a goal by freshman midfielder Indy Zoontjens.

After another scoreless quarter, this time in the third, the Broncs wanted to create some breathing room and accomplished that late in the fourth quarter. Zoontjens provided the Broncs with some insurance firing a shot into the cage making the score now 2-0 and essentially putting the game out of reach.

Even though it was the freshman Zoontjens providing the offense for the Broncs, Hussong gave kudos about her senior leadership for her team and how it was an overall total team effort.

“Senior leadership has been key, especially in games like this, and our seniors stepped up and played in the critical moments of the game. We had some big time plays not only from Maeve and Kaitlyn [Tomas], but also from Kiki [Van Ommeren], Amanda [Zambrana], and Sierra and in the midfield. Everybody contributed in this win, and everybody came up big when we needed them,” Hussong said.

Zoontjens also mentioned that she wanted to make sure this would be a great day for her team, especially for her senior teammates. 

“It’s Senior Day, so we just wanted a great day. What a great win. And if we didn’t win this game, we may also not make the playoffs. So it was really important even for not just our seniors,” Zoontjens said.

With the Broncs now sitting at 11-5 with tournament time coming very soon, Hussong knows what’s in front of them as they close out their regular season and prepare for the playoffs.

“We just need to continue to play team hockey and give our best effort. Good things will come our way if we can continue to do so,” she said.

Rider will close out their regular season with a home matchup against Merrimack on Oct. 28 and on the road against Hofstra on Oct. 30.

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