By David Pavlak
Rider is a school that prides itself on its winning ways and tough competitive spirit. The winter sports this year have been shaky; however, some teams have asserted themselves, while other sport’s inconsistencies have hampered their performances.
The juggernaut of Rider athletics is the men’s basketball team (6-4), which has faced its fair share of ups and downs while playing a difficult out-of-conference schedule. After dropping its opening game against Massachusetts (7-2), Rider went on a four-game winning streak, defeating the likes of Lafayette (4-6), USC (5-4), Texas Christian (7-3) and Loyola Marymount (5-5). Rider outscored its opponents on the four-game winning streak, 306-254.
The Broncs would drop their next game against rival MAAC member Siena (2-5), followed by a lackluster losing performance against Hofstra (5-3). Rider took out its frustrations against Manhattan (2-7) later that week before falling to Pittsburgh (10-0), the third-ranked team in the country.
The two shining stars for the Broncs have been senior guard Justin Robinson and senior forward Mike Ringgold. Robinson averages 14.5 points per game while shooting close to 50 percent from the outside. Ringgold has averaged 13.5 points per game while grabbing nearly six rebounds a game. When each are on their game, the Broncs are tough to beat, especially with the help of the supporting cast from head coach Tommy Dempsey’s gritty team.
However, shaky shooting can spell trouble for the Broncs. Rider will have to remain sharp while facing a difficult schedule, but with cohesiveness and strong team play, the Broncs should be able to finish well against tough opponents and MAAC foes.
The women’s basketball team (0-7) has had a dismal year thus far, unable to win and doing so in blowout fashion. There is no one specific weakness. Lack of offense and defense is crippling the Broncs, and there seems to be no end in sight. Coming up for Rider is its most daunting task of the season: Georgetown. The Hoyas (7-2) are the 11th-ranked team in America and visit Alumni Gym on Saturday. Unless head coach Lynn Milligan can address the offensive and defensive problems, it is only a matter of time before the ship completely sinks.
The swimming and diving teams are off to a slow start after fairly successful seasons last year. The men’s squad has been able to capture wins occasionally while the women’s side got its first taste of victory for the season with a win over La Salle on Nov. 13.
The men’s and women’s teams both finished fifth at Princeton’s Big Al Open last weekend, which was successful for the Broncs. Rider finished behind Princeton, which won the meet, followed by Florida, Columbia and Brown.
“This meet was a perfect example of what our team is going to look like in the future and at the MAACs,” said senior Brianna Burns. “Everyone was supporting each other at preliminaries and finals and everyone swam super fast. I’m excited to see how well we are going to do now at the end of the season.”
Burns has been a solid freestyle swimmer for the Broncs, streaming together consistent times in an attempt to help the Broncs jump out of their early season struggle. She will need to continue to do so in order to help the Broncs notch some more victories. Last season, the men’s team finished 3-5, while the women finished 7-2.
Both teams are looking to repeat their success from last year. In order to do this, both the men and women are going to need to shake off the early cobwebs and perform to their maximum potential at every meet.
The wrestling team opened up its season with a bang, defeating Gardner Webb and Anderson University by a total of 81-6. The Broncs lost to Virginia decisively, however, in between those meets. Out of the three tournaments the team has entered, it has competed and wrestled hard, earning all of its points. The team had an influx of freshmen this year, and the youth will only make the Broncs more dangerous in the future.
The Broncs, who finished 15-6 last year, return juniors Tyler Smith and Jimmy Kirchner, both of whom started the season nationally ranked, as well as sophomore Jim Resnick, who is ranked 17th in the 165-pound division. Head coach Gary Taylor has been Rider’s wrestling coach for the past 33 seasons and knows how to win and move his team into contention. He is 361-199-4 in his coaching career.
The hockey team (16-4) is continuing its success after last year’s near-championship season when it came up short against UMBC for the MACHA title. After the graduation of key seniors, the Broncs are blending youth with strong leadership from the upperclassmen.
The top line, composed of sophomore captain Frank Garvey, senior captain D.J. Nork and junior Connor Dragone, has been producing points at an alarming pace. Through 19 games, Garvey has 32 goals and 18 assists, while Nork has added 10 goals and 30 assists. Dragone has contributed in his own right, registering 14 goals and 18 assists. Garvey ranks fifth in the league in total points with 50, and is second in goals scored in the league. Nork is third in the league with 30 assists.
A powerful offense is no good without a strong defense and goaltending. Senior Joseph Nalbone, who leads the league in minutes with more than 1,013 minutes, has a 2.84 goals against average for the Broncs. The Broncs have a good chance of coming home with the MACHA championship if they continue to play the fast, unselfish hockey they are playing of late.
The men’s and women’s track and field teams open their seasons Saturday with the Princeton New Year Invitational. Last year, the men’s indoors team finished second out of five while the women finished third out of six. Outdoors, the men finished second out of five while the women finished second out of six. The Broncs have the ability to compete as their records indicate. Getting off to a decent start could be a sign of good things to come for the track and field team this coming year.