By Charlie Filippazzo
Looking to extend its five-game winning streak, the Rider field hockey team did just that this past weekend. Rider’s defense led the way as it stifled Quinnipiac on Friday and Sacred Heart on Sunday.
The victories boosted the Broncs to 10-3 overall and 3-0 in the NEC, ranking them first alongside Monmouth and Bryant in the conference.
Both games were intense and all the teams played exceptionally well defensively. The two games had everyone on the edge of their seats, waiting for something to break the low-scoring affairs. Rider nudged by Quinnipiac (5-8 overall, 1-2 NEC) in a 1-0 overtime thriller before beating Sacred Heart (2-11 overall, 0-3 NEC), 2-0.
“I was very happy with how our defense played,” said head coach Lori Hussong. “In the beginning of the season we struggled defensively and were letting a lot of goals in. We’ve managed to turn that around because in order to win you have to play defense.”
After losing three straight one-goal games in September, the Broncs retaliated with five straight wins, raising their record to 8-3 before Friday’s game. However, this game would not be so easy to overcome.
Both teams sustained high-intensity play for the duration of the contest as the score was tied at zero going into overtime. The defenses of both teams were impermeable.
After a goal was disallowed when the shot hit the foot of an attacker in overtime, the Broncs did not let up. Ten minutes into overtime, junior Virginia Egusquiza assisted freshman Alicia Govannicci to win the game. It was Govannicci’s fifth goal of the season and Eguiquiza’s 27th point of the season. Egusquiza’s 35 career assists lead the team and are just three short of Rider’s assist record held by Kellie Fisher.
Junior goalkeeper Rebecca Lotito earned the win, having to make only one save for her third shutout on the season.
“Rebecca played well all weekend,” Hussong said. “She has done a great job of stepping up and leading this defense.”
Being the final road game for the Broncs, this marks their seventh consecutive win. Junior Megan Pasani scored her third game-winner this season via a rebound shot from senior Lindsay Rajeski. Rajeski also connected in the final ten minutes of the game to secure the win for the Broncs.
Lotito was the leader of the defense that allowed Rider to succeed this weekend. Lotito only had to make three saves over the two games this past weekend, but now has four shutouts on the season.
Lotito was named NEC Co-Player of the Week for the games against Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac.
“Rebecca made a big stop on a one-on-one situation when the game was still tied, it was a huge save,” Hussong said. Although the Broncs could only score twice out of the 31 shots on goal they had, it was easy to see the frustration setting in.
However, despite their struggles, the Broncs were able to come up with their 10th win of the season and are still undefeated in NEC play.
Rider will take on Bryant tonight. This will be the first field hockey game being held at night at Rider on the new turf field.
“We have to go one game at a time and maintain the level of play we have right now,” Hussong said. “We know everyone is gunning for us right now as the pre-season pick to win the conference so we can’t let our guard down.”
During the Broncs’ winning streak, its rankings and stats have risen.
Rider is tied for the 9th best record in the nation and is ranked 34th overall in the ACR rankings by fieldhockeycorner.com.
Lotito’s been outstanding. She’s second in the entire country in goals against average, fifth in save percentage and Rider as a team is second in shutouts per game.
The Broncs look to extend their impressive winning streak as Rider begins to close out their season with four NEC games at home.
“We haven’t had as many home games this year as we had in the past so it is going to be nice to finish the season at home and not have to worry about traveling,” Hussong said. “It will give everyone some time to rest up.”