By Carolo Pascale
After four straight years of being bested in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) Quarterfinals, the women’s soccer team returned to the second round of the playoffs after earning a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Manhattan College on April 9.
Less than a week removed from their last meeting, which ended in a 3-1 Rider win, the Broncs and the Jaspers faced off again in the MAAC Quarterfinals as the fourth and fifth seeds respectively.
This was an extremely even game between both teams, having the same amount of total shots, 15, with nine on goal.
Both teams were firing on all cylinders, but Manhattan struck first with a goal at the 13 minute mark, giving the Jaspers a 1-0 lead.
In goal for the Broncs, freshman keeper Ellie Sciancalepore was doing everything she could to keep the score at 1-0, making four saves in the first half.
“Ellie has been great for us this year, especially as a freshman goalkeeper stepping into the shoes of Carmen Carbonell. During the game, she made some vital saves to keep us in the match early on and continued to come up with big saves late in the game,” said sophomore forward Makenzie Rodrigues. “Her big saves helped shift the momentum of the game and make us feel more confident.”
Sciancalepore made a season-high eight saves throughout the entire game.
After the end of the first half, Rider made some changes to try and get the tying goal and then take the lead. Manhattan also altered some things from the previous matchup against Rider.
“In the first game, we dominated possession so they (Manhattan) adjusted in this game well and kept the game scrappy, denying us possession by playing long balls into the wide channel that was tough for our defenders to deal with. They then looked to press and force us into errors. It was hard for us to get into a rhythm and pass the ball around,” said Head Coach Drayson Hounsome. “At halftime, we were able to give the players some belief that they needed to pass the ball out despite being pressured by Manhattan.”
Going into the second half, Rider needed a goal to tie the game and they got it from Rodrigues at the 47 minute mark, assisted by senior midfielder Cameron Santers.
Rodrigues’ game-tying goal was her team-leading sixth of the season. Overall, she has had 14 points from five games played this year.
“She has worked really hard at her game, which has helped her confidence to take chances and play free,” said Hounsome.
With chances going back and forth between both teams, the Broncs had an opportunity and capitalized. Rider took a 2-1 lead with a goal coming from freshman midfielder Hannah Freeman, assisted by sophomore forward Hailey Russel and Rodrigues.
Rider held onto its lead and finally made it past the MAAC quarterfinals for the first time in four years.
“It feels great to get through to the semi-finals and reach one of the goals we were striving for this year,” said Rodrigues. “I’m glad we had a positive result this time around and I’m really hopeful for the future of our team this year and for years to come.”
Rider then faced No. 1 seeded Siena Saints in the MAAC Semifinals game on April 12.
Siena scored at the 13 and 74 minute marks while junior back Niamh Cashin scored the lone goal for the Broncs at the 79 minute mark.
Siena won with a final score of 2-1 and Sciancalepore reflected on what the Broncs have done well this year.
“A big part of the success I’ve seen through this past season is due to my team and the confidence they have in me. As a team, I believe we have done a great job adapting and finding success in those moments. We’ve grown a lot as a team from Fairfield to Siena, and that is due to our ability to be flexible,” said Sciancalepore. “This season was not ideal by any means, but with injury and other setbacks, the girls did a great job stepping up to plate and finding ways to get the job done.”
The Broncs loss in this game eliminated them from the MAAC Women’s Soccer Championship, allowing Siena to move on to face Monmouth on April 16.