By David Nugent
The women’s basketball team is 2-0 for the first time since the 1982-83 season and is now attempting to build upon that record this weekend.
The Broncs will travel to Philadelphia tomorrow to visit the historical Palestra and take on Pennsylvania at 3:30 p.m.
Rider Head Coach Lynn Milligan said Rider’s focus will be against sophomore guard Alyssa Baron, who was named last year’s Ivy League Rookie of the Year.
“Our key matchup will be their best player, Alyssa Baron,” Milligan said. “We will need to limit her touches as much as we can.”
The Quakers (1-0) come into the contest after defeating St. Francis (N.Y.) 70-61 in overtime in their season opener. Pennsylvania was led by Baron’s 27 points while senior forward Jess Knapp contributed 10 in the win.
The game featured 12 lead changes in the last 12 minutes of regulation. Penn rallied after trailing by seven at the break and as much as nine in the second half.
Milligan said that defense and slowing the pace will be important factors in beating the Quakers.
“Our keys for Penn will be to continue to play solid defense,” Milligan said. “We have to keep them out of transition and off the boards.”
Junior forward Carleigh Brown agrees with her coach about the importance of strong defense.
“Some of the things we are focusing on are improving our help defense and off the ball defense as well as transition defense,” she said. “We are also adding some new plays and working on fine-tuning the plays we have.”
Junior Caitlin Bopp is looking forward to the opportunity to play Penn again. Last year, Penn beat Rider 60-45.
“I think the main focus is that we just have to remember to play our game and not let Penn make us change our pace,” Bopp said. “Last year we didn’t play our game and let a win get away, so we definitely are looking to get [a win] back. I think it’s going to be a good competitive game and we’re definitely looking to come back with a win.”
Rider is off to its best start in 29 years thanks to home victories over Lafayette and Bucknell.
“We’ve been working really hard over the summer and preseason, and it feels amazing to finally see all of our hard work pay off,” Brown said.
The Broncs defeated Lafayette 64-56 last Friday, as senior Sarah Homan led the way with a career-high 20 points.
Rider trailed 33-31 with 15 minutes to play before going on a 17-0 run, which included seven points from senior Ali Heller, last year’s MAAC Sixth Player of the Year.
The Broncs took down Bucknell on the following Sunday, 63-43. Rider was led by double-double efforts from sophomore MyNeshia McKenzie and Bopp. McKenzie finished with 16 points and 12 rebounds and Bopp scored 14 points and snatched 10 rebounds.
Rider won in comeback fashion after trailing by four points early in the second half. The Broncs dominated from then on, constructing a 27-1 run that included nine points by Heller.
The Broncs outscored the Bison 31-7 after halftime as Heller finished the day with 14 points.
Milligan’s goal for the season is to take it one day at a time and get better with each game.
“Our goals for this season are simple,” she said. “We want to take a step forward on our journey every day. Penn is the third step of many more to come. We are happy with the first steps but need to continue to work hard every day and get better.”