By Kim Leder
The winning streak and stellar defense continued last weekend as the field hockey team handled Bryant, winning 3-0, followed by a 5-0 beat-down over Siena.
The wins now give the Broncs (12-3 overall, 5-0 NEC) a nine-game winning streak and keep them tied for first place with Monmouth in the Northeast Conference.
On Friday, senior Lindsay Rajeski scored the first goal against Bryant (6-11 overall, 3-2 NEC) on a penalty corner assisted by both junior Virginia Egusquiza and freshman Alicia Govannicci in the first two minutes of the second half.
“The two wins were very important in giving us a chance to accomplish one of our goals of winning our conference regular season title,” said head coach Lori Hussong. “Our players are peaking at the right time.”
The scoreboard lit up again with only eight minutes remaining as Egusquiza made her eighth goal of the season, off of a pass from Rajeski, from seven yards out. Egusquiza leads the Broncs in points (37), assisrs (17) and shots (80).
Rider’s final goal came with less than six minutes remaining, when Rajeski scored her fifth goal of the season and second of the night, which was assisted again by Egusquiza and Govannicci on another penalty corner.
Rider junior goalie Rebecca Lotito recorded her fifth shutout of the season, making three saves in the game. She entered second in the nation in goals against average. Her shutout lowered it to 0.55, making her the top goalkeeper in the nation in that category. She’s also third in the nation with a .833 save percentage.
In addition, Egusquiza tied the Rider career assist record held by Kellie Fisher, who had 38 assists from 1989-1992. More than 550 fans attended the first-ever night field hockey game, with the Broncs honoring almost 100 alumni who returned to support the team.
On Sunday afternoon, the field hockey team came out again with its eyes on another win against last-place Siena (2-14 overall, 0-5 NEC). A penalty stroke was scored just two minutes into the game by Egusquiza that gave the Broncs an early lead.
Next up was sophomore Amber Evans, who scored from five yards out on a pass from Egusquiza in the 22nd minute. For Evans, it was her second goal of the season and she now has five points.
It was Egusquiza’s 17th assist of the season, which tied her own Rider single season record from 2009. More importantly, it was her 39th assist of her career, which broke the Rider record set by Fisher.
Junior Natasha Tukeva managed to score her first goal of the season just 23 minutes into the game off a rebound, but the girls didn’t stop there. Egusquiza scored off a penalty stroke just one minute into the second half, marking her 10th goal of the season.
Moments later, senior Margaret Ecke made a conversion pass from sophomore Jackie Adams to complete the scoring.
It was Ecke’s first goal, of the season as well as Adam’s first assist.
Lotito played almost 55 minutes in goal to extend her shutout streak to 342:14 minutes in addition to grabbing her ninth win of the season. She has won every game she has started in so far this season.
The final 15 minutes of the game were saved by freshman goalie Rachel Yacovett to make the combined shutout.
The Broncs out shot the Saints 40-1 and held a 21-2 penalty corner advantage, giving both goalies an easy game in net.
Rider is undefeated on its new turf field (5-0) with two home games left on the regular season schedule.
When Rider hosts Monmouth (13-3 overall, 5-0 NEC) tonight, it is a pivotal matchup. The victor will win the regular season. Even if there is a letdown during the last game of the season, the winner of the Rider-Monmouth game will own the tie breaker.
For Rider, the last game of the season is at home against Saint Francis (PA) (4-12 overall, 2-3 NEC) on Sunday.
“Hopefully we will be able to continue our strong play this weekend as we host Monmouth and Saint Francis to close out our regular season,” Hussong said. “Winning both games would give our team the opportunity to host the NEC Championships next weekend on our home field, which would be a huge advantage for our team.”
There is a revenge factor in the game against Monmouth. The Broncs’ season ended last year in the first round of the NEC Championship in a loss to Monmouth. That loss is the only conference defeat Rider has had over the past two seasons. The Broncs have won 12 regular season conference games in a row.
The 2010 NEC regular season champions will host the four-team playoffs Nov. 5 and 6.
“Our team has worked hard and has played inspired,” Hussong said. “We know we are ready and prepared and that our team will give their best effort every time.”