By Carlos Toro
The field hockey team split two conference games on Oct. 23 and Oct. 25, losing to Quinnipiac in overtime and defeating Sacred Heart.
Rider (10-6, 2-2 MAAC) is now in control of its own MAAC Tournament destiny with two conference games remaining.
The game against Sacred Heart was also Rider’s Senior Day, and the Broncs got that victory thanks to the solid contributions of their three seniors: back Melyssa Alonzo, goalkeeper Joelle Prettyman and midfielder Rachel Ippolite, said Head Coach Lori Hussong.
“Joelle Prettyman really kept us in the game and our defense did a solid job holding the line,” Hussong said. “We had great performances from our three seniors that really spurred us on to victory.”
Against Quinnipiac (7-10, 4-1 MAAC), Rider’s offense scored two goals in the first half — the first by redshirt sophomore back Melissa Cunningham. The goal came on a shot off a corner in the 24th minute, assisted by junior midfielder Carlota Alsina.
Alsina also scored her fifth goal of the season less than five minutes later thanks to Alonzo’s assist.
Even with the Broncs’ 2-0 lead, a lack of scoring in the second half and defensive miscues ultimately came back to haunt them.
After the Bobcats were limited to just one shot in the first half, Quinnipiac exploded with 11 shots in the second. The offense keyed in on Rider late in the game when redshirt senior forward Savanna Reilly tied the game with two goals within the final five minutes of regulation.
The first Reilly goal came in the 65th minute of regulation when she scored off a defensive turnover, and her second came from a penalty corner as time expired, sending the game into overtime.
Unfortunately for the Broncs, not a minute passed before Reilly was a part of the winning goal, this time with an assist to sophomore midfielder Dayna Barlow after from a turnover.
With the Broncs in danger of potentially missing out on the MAAC Tournament this year, the win against Sacred Heart (2-13, 0-5 MAAC) became even more imperative.
Rider’s offense started the contest against the Pioneers with a goal about four minutes into the first half, thanks to freshman midfielder Christine van Egmond’s first goal of the season.
Sacred Heart responded with a corner goal of their own less than two minutes later when freshman forward Rebecca Hauser scored her second goal of the season. The Broncs answered back when Alsina scored for Rider, assisted by Cunningham and Egmond.
Intermission didn’t come before Rider scored a third goal thanks to the team’s season leading scorer, sophomore forward Allison Baligian. She scored off a Sacred Heart turnover to give her team the 3-1 lead.
Through that first half, the Broncs kept pressuring the Pioneers, shooting 16 times, a familiar stat seen all season from a Rider offense that has certainly shown more productivity than last year’s team.
The second half did not have any scoring. It was a very even half with the Pioneers shooting nine times compared to the Broncs’ eight. Prettyman had a big game, getting the win with nine saves and shutting down Sacred Heart’s offense in the second half, especially late in the game when the Pioneers were on the verge of scoring multiple times.
Egmund, who scored the opening goal and assisted on another, said that they needed the win and the positive energy moving forward.
Prettyman said after the game that she was excited to get the win on Senior Day, but more importantly because it snapped the team’s two-game losing streak and kept their tournament hopes alive.
“This game was huge for us — not just because it was Senior Day, but also because we’re coming off of two very tough loses that we should have won, but let the game slip out of us,” Prettyman said.
The Broncs finish up the regular season with two road games against Bryant on Oct. 30 and against Siena on Nov. 1. If the Broncs win those two games, then they will earn a spot in the MAAC Tournament.