By Dylan Manfre
After making over 80 total changes to the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) schedule this season, the league office had room for one more (and there will probably be others in the future), and this time Rider was involved.
The women’s basketball team was originally supposed to play Marist but when Niagara announced it entered a quarantine because of a positive COVID-19 case in its tier 1 program, Marist paused basketball activities since it played at Niagara last weekend.
Now Rider is scheduled to play Monmouth and the Marist series will be made up on Feb. 26 and 27, per a news release from the league.
Monmouth has felt the full burden of COVID-19 on its players and season. Hawks Head Coach Jodie Craig told reporters on Jan. 27 that during the span of 40 days when her team did not play a game, that players were experiencing “significant” symptoms of COVID-19.
It played with an extremely short-handed rotation against Manhattan, using eight players in game one and seven in game two. Craig is optimistic that she will have a full rotation available for the weekend series against Rider.
Having a healthy lineup is essential as far as Rider is concerned. It is what got the team an upset overtime win against Quinnipiac ,where all five of its starters finished in double figures — Something it did not do all of last season when Rider had Stella Johnson and all the pieces complementing her.
“Having different players that can score in different ways this year is something we look forward to continue to develop as this group gets older,” Rider Head Coach Lynn Milligan said on a call with reporters on Jan. 27.
The Broncs saw the impeccable front-court duo of freshman forward Rapheala Toussaint and sophomore center Victoria Toomey keep the game close only allowing the Bobcats’ largest lead to be five points.
Toomey and Toussaint had sensational individual stat lines as well, highlighted by Toomey’s eight blocks and Toussaint’s fourth double-double of the campaign with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Toussaint also had a clutch 3-pointer as time crept down in overtime, preserving Rider’s lead.
Milligan said she likes Toussaint at power forward and could see her staying in the starting role in the future.
“I think the combination of Raphie and Victoria right now is one that we like. It’s a young post combo that’s getting comfortable with each other and we like to build relationships and connections as much as we can,” Milligan said. “I think those two have worked really hard in practice to form a connection that we need on both ends of the floor. So as of right now, yeah, I would say that.”
If Rider has all of its players scoring early on in the game then the Broncs pose a formidable threat to Monmouth. But Monmouth also defeated the preseason favorite in Manhattan so anything is possible.
The Broncs also need to have a big game from junior guard Amanda Mobley. She admitted she had been in a slump this season, averaging 6.3 points per game before the Quinnipiac series. That’s down 2.9 points per game from what she ended with last season. In game two against the Bobcats, she poured in 18 points and looked like the Amanda Mobley Rider is familiar with. When she is on the rest of the team is too.
MAAC Tournament Notes
The league is going full steam ahead with the postseason tournament in Atlantic City, New Jersey, from Mar. 9 to 13 with all 22 men’s and women’s teams being in attendance.
MAAC commissioner Rich Ensor told reporters the teams will arrive on Mar. 7 to begin COVID-19 testing prior to games beginning two days later.
One of the biggest things Ensor addressed to reporters was the possibility of a tournament game being postponed. Since myriad games have been canceled and postponed during the regular season, tournament games are not out of the question.
“Many of our teams have players who have had COVID within the last 90 days and would be able to still compete even if there was an outbreak on their team,” Ensor said. “We also have the ability to do some contact tracing to see if it was a staff member, for instance, who came down at the tournament in the tier 1 group did they have contact with the players and coaching staff.”
Ensor added that the MAAC would either cancel the game and “award a forfeit as far as the team that hadn’t been exposed.”
No fans will be in attendance at Jim Whelan Boardwalk Hall for the tournament because of the pandemic but all games will be broadcasted on ESPN3 and ESPN+.
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