By Carlos Toro
The field hockey team finished its extensive non-conference road trip with a victory over Villanova on Oct. 11 thanks to a three-goal performance by junior forward Carlie Spaeder, who was awarded MAAC Offensive Player of the Week for the second time this season.
While Rider got a big game from Spaeder, they also suffered a potentially big loss when senior back Melyssa Alonso suffered a broken hand early in the game during a corner shot.
The win ended a two-game losing streak and gave the team momentum heading into MAAC play. Head Coach Lori Hussong commended Spaeder’s great performance, which also included an assist.
Hussong said that Alonso’s absence was huge for the team as she is one of the team’s leaders. She also said that the team did a good job at rebounding and stepping up for their injured teammate.
“Carlie was on fire on Sunday,” Hussong said. “She played poised and looked like a seasoned veteran out on the field. She came through for our team in a big way and has been doing it all season long for us. Her effort may not be reflected in points, but she has been so key to our success so far this season.”
Spaeder’s first of three goals came about the fourth minute of the game when she scored off an assist by redshirt sophomore back Melissa Cunningham.
Unfortunately for the Broncs (8-4), after the injury to Alonso, the Wildcats (4-9, 1-1 Big East) scored immediately to tie the game at one goal apiece. But that did not stop Spaeder from making an impact on the offensive side, scoring goals in the 24th and 29th minutes to retake the lead and go into halftime with a 3-1 lead.
For Spaeder, the three goals were big not just for her, but for the team, which needed a spark.
“It was a pretty big game for me, but for our team as well,” Spaeder said. “We were able to work together and pull out a win, which is always good.”
Villanova got back in the game when senior forward Kayla Kenney scored on a penalty goal in the 47th minute. Six minutes later, Rider’s sophomore forward Allison Baligian scored the Broncs’ fourth goal.
Even with a 4-2 lead late in the game, the Broncs continued to push the offensive tempo, shooting the ball four times, although none of the shots was able to increase the Broncs’ lead. Despite Villanova junior forward Courtney Devine scoring in the 65th minute, Rider held on for the victory.
It was a big day for the Broncs as they now are going into conference play with a win, something that junior forward Kalyn O’Brien believes was needed for Rider.
“It was a good day for us, especially after last weekend,” O’Brien said. “We really needed this win right before conference play starts to prove that we are ready and to show everyone what we got.”
The first conference game is on Oct. 16 against Fairfield (4-6, 0-1 MAAC) at Rider. Then they travel to Monmouth (4-9, 1-0 MAAC) to face the Hawks on Oct. 18.
“We have to be at the top of our game in order to make a run for a playoff berth,” Hussong said. “The pressure is on and we will work hard the next few days to prepare for two very tough games. We need to take one game at a time and play with 100 percent effort and cohesiveness.”