Second-seed Broncs enter ninth post-season in a row

Senior forward Tricia Crotty pushes the ball up the field during the Broncs’ 2-0 conference shutout over Monmouth. She added an assist for senior Diana Celebre’s goal in the victory.By Lauren Clay

The field hockey team ended its regular season on a high note when it defeated Monmouth 2-0 in a conference game last weekend.

Junior Kelly Crist, who transferred from Monmouth last spring, was happy with Rider’s success against her former team.

“It was a great win because it set us up on a winning note going into the tournament and also because our win shut out Monmouth’s chances for the tournament,” she said. “I knew they were going to come out strong, but I made sure that we came out stronger to beat them.”

Freshman Virginia Egusquiza, who came to Rider from Getxco, Spain, scored five minutes into the game off an assist from senior Julie Vaccarelli. Five minutes later, leading scorer senior Diana Celebre scored her 12th goal of the season off an assist from senior Tricia Crotty.

Rider was able to hold onto its 2-0 lead for the rest of the game, giving junior goalkeeper Lyndsie Johnson her fifth shutout this season, as she made three saves.

“It was a team effort,” Johnson said to Rider Sports Information. “The defense was great and it was awesome to be able to pick up another shutout.”

Johnson allowed only two goals in the seven conference games this season for a .28 goals against average and lowered her overall average to 1.07, 10th best in the nation.

Egusquiza’s goal against Monmouth marked her sixth of the season, putting her third on the team for most goals this season. Out of her six goals, three have been game-winning. Adding to her impressive résumé this season, Egusquiza was named Northeast Conference (NEC) Rookie of the Week for all games Oct. 27-Nov. 2, as well as NEC Rookie of the Year for this season. This is the fourth time in five weeks that the NEC has honored her.

Rider’s victory over Monmouth last season did not come as easily. Rider gave up a 2-0 lead and was forced to fight for the win in overtime.

“Last season we almost gave the game away,” said Head Coach Lori Hussong. “This season we were able to play tough defensively and hold onto our shutout.”

The Broncs enter the NEC Playoffs this weekend seeded second out of four teams. Lock Haven, the only conference team to beat Rider this season, is seeded first, with Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac getting the third and fourth seeds, respectively. Rider is making its ninth straight tournament appearance and looks forward to a weekend of tough competition.

“Tournament time is a second season and anything can happen,” explained Hussong. “It’s not about skill, but more about desire. Our team is ready for the challenge of bringing back the NEC title to Rider.”

Rider has made it to the tournament finals seven out of the last eight years, winning the title in 2000, 2002 and 2004. If the team is able to win the NEC tournament, they will move on to play the winner of the Patriot League, which, according to Hussong, will most likely be American University.

The Broncs’ overall regular season record this year is 12-6-0, with a conference record of 6-1. Out of the team’s six losses, five were only by one goal. Crist attributes the program’s success to the support from the coaching staff and the players.

“Playing for Rider field hockey is such an honor,” said Crist. “I feel so lucky that I found my way to this program. Not only is it a field hockey team, but it is truly a family. This is not only a team that I will be a part of for two years, but for the rest of my life.”

Rider will play its first game of the tournament today against Sacred Heart. If the Broncs are successful, they move on to the title game tomorrow against the winner of the Lock Haven and Quinnipiac game.

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