By Brandon Scalea
After a span that produced a pair of impressive victories for the women’s soccer team, the MAAC chose two Broncs to be honored with its weekly awards.
Junior goalkeeper Bethany-May Howard might need more shelves in her trophy case, as she was awarded MAAC Defensive Player of the Week for the third time this season, following shutouts against St. Peter’s on Sept. 30, and Iona on Oct. 3.
Head Coach Drayson Hounsome said that his goalkeeper repeatedly proves her elite status in the conference.
“Beth continues to show why she is a top performing goalie with two shutouts this week and a string of top-class saves,” he said. “Vocally she’s a leader for the defensive line and is involved in the game for 90 minutes.”
For the second time this season, freshman forward Kourtney Cunningham was named MAAC Rookie of the Week thanks to her two goals and two assists in the victories.Cunningham said that receiving the honor was just as rewarding as the first time.
“It feels great getting this for the second time, but I couldn’t have done it without my team,” she said. “The great effort that this team has put forth the past week is what made it possible to receive this award.”
Against St. Peter’s, however, Cunningham was not the only Bronc who scored. In a historic evening that saw the Broncs match their program record for goals in a game, Rider put on a clinic against the Peacocks, winning by a final of 8-0.
Junior forward Hollie Kelsh provided four assists in the win, and sophomore midfielder Ellie Smith provided an assist of her own, and two goals for good measure. Cunningham had a pair of goals in the game as well.
The goals came early and often, with Rider (7-4, 4-1 MAAC) scoring three in an 18-minute span to lead 3-0 in the first half. The Broncs added two more before the horn sounded, and went to the locker room enjoying a 5-0 lead.
Cunningham said that the explosion on offense came from a minor change in the offensive scheme.
“In practice we worked on getting the ball from our fullbacks to our inside midfielders,” she said. “Against St. Peter’s, we were able to execute that very well. We also found our forwards making thorough runs behind their defense and scoring a lot of goals off that.”
Senior back and 2015 MAAC Preseason Player of the Year Tara Ballay added a goal to make it 6-0 early in the second. It was the 19th goal of her career.
In her fourth shutout of the season, Howard made eight saves, raising her total to a MAAC-leading 76 saves on the season.
The dominance seen in the game was not unheard of for the series between these two teams, as Rider holds a commanding 16-4 advantage in the series.
Against Iona (1-11, 0-3 MAAC), Howard stood tall yet again. In a four-save performance, she shutout the Gaels 2-0, giving the Broncs their fifth win in six games. All five of those wins were by shutout.
The Broncs took a 1-0 lead in the 16th minute when Smith fielded a crossing pass from Cunningham and scored her third goal in two games.
Five minutes later, the score became 2-0 when junior forward Caroline Healy headed in her fifth goal of the year.
The Broncs remain undefeated at Ben Cohen Field, but will travel to West Long Branch, New Jersey to take on Monmouth on Oct. 7. Hounsome believes the field will bring back fond memories for the team, who won the MAAC Title there a year ago.
“The memories from last season will come flooding back for everyone who was part of last season’s success, but that’s exactly what it was — last season’s success,” he said. “We expect Monmouth to play a different formation from us so it’ll be interesting to see how we adapt to one another. It’ll be a close game.”