By Ben Smith
The women’s soccer team is off to the best start in its 15-year history, and expectations are at an all-time high.
The Broncs will travel to Loyola University in Baltimore M.D. Saturday in an attempt to build on their impressive 7-2-2 record.
“We’ve handled non-conference play very well,” junior Abi Cottam said. “We all had high expectations for the team, but hoping we will do well and actually achieving what we have are totally difference experiences.”
The team has not lost a game since playing in a forgettable 4-0 loss to La Salle nearly a month ago.
Head coach Drayson Hounsome is proud of his team, but he also recognizes now is not the time to get cocky.
“The non-conference schedule really gave us all the challenges I am expecting the team to face when conference play starts,” Hounsome said. “We have a very talented group of student-athletes, but as you know, in soccer talent alone doesn’t win championships, teamwork wins championships.”
Cottam knows this better than anyone on the team. Her seven assists this season have garnered her national attention as she is ranked 15th in the country in points per game.
“I try to play aggressively in games regardless of my ranking,” Cottam said. “Sometimes I get frustrated if I’m not playing well or can’t score, but this is a team game and I’m quite happy to assist my team mates if it means we win.”
Hounsome enjoys seeing Cottam in the lineup every night.
“It is exciting to see her in our offensive unit,” Hounsome said. “They make her a better player and she makes them better players.”
The Broncs will be looking to add another victory in the win column this weekend when they take on Loyola (3-4-1).
“I think we are really prepared for conference play,” sophomore Carolyn Wiley said. “We have been working hard each and every day since August, and the only thing we need to help better prepare for conference play is to mentally focus and give it our all every time we step onto the field.”
This past week, Rider defeated Delaware State (1-10-1) in overtime, 4-3.
Rider took an early 2-0 lead off goals from a pair of sophomores, Bridgette Bartowski and Jennifer Meier.
DSU was let back into the game when it scored off a rebound just 12 minutes into the second half to tie the game at 2-2.
Cottam gave the Broncs a 3-2 lead with her eighth goal of the season. She would finish with a goal and an assist.
After Delaware State was able to tie the game and force overtime, junior Demi Mello became the hero as she headed the ball into the net off a corner kick, sending the Broncs bench into celebration.
Rider could not keep the momentum going against Holy Cross (2-6-2), however. The game ended in a 1-1 tie.
The Broncs were first on the scoreboard when junior Claire Thompson found the back of the net after Cottam was able to feed her the ball.
The Crusaders would answer right back, however, scoring six minutes into the second half.
“The challenges they’ve faced have helped them work as a team to deal with the adversity faced in matches,” said Hounsome. “They’ve learned as a team that they can dictate the tempo of a game, control possession and then put a team away by scoring at crucial times.”
The Broncs strong first half play has them ready for the second half of the year.
“We as a team want to once again prove the other MAAC coaches wrong,” Wiley said. “Last year, they predicted that we would end ninth in the MAAC and we finished fourth.
“This year, we are predicted to finish sixth and our goal is to win the MAAC.”