By Tom Albano
The women’s soccer team (7-3-3, 2-2-1 MAAC) is preparing for its upcoming games on Friday against Canisius (4-12, 2-4 MAAC) at 7 p.m. and on Sunday against Niagara (8-7, 3-3 MAAC) at 3 p.m. — the Broncs’ final two home games of the regular season at Ben Cohen Field.
Rider comes into this weekend after a 1-1 tie with Loyola (MD), which followed two consecutive wins for the Broncs.
Senior Claire Thompson has been satisfied with the team’s recent performance.
“I’m proud of how we’ve performed thus far,” Thompson said. “We’ve had our off days but we are unbeaten in our last three games. Hopefully that’s a strong indication of where we’re at now and how we’ll finish out the year.”
Head Coach Drayson Hounsome knows that his players are capable because of the maturation they have undergone through the years.
“We have an outstanding group of soccer players who have developed significantly since we were in the MAAC semi-finals two years ago,” Hounsome said. “The experiences from the past are helping them push forward to their ultimate goal this year.”
Part of the reason for the Broncs’ success is the playing of freshman Tara Ballay who was named the MAAC Rookie of the Week for the third time this season.
“I don’t look at it as an individual award,” Ballay said. “I look at it as a team award because we have to work together for success and we are all dependent on each other. The girls on the team have really welcomed the new players and have really helped us become a part of the team.”
Despite struggling early in conference games, the team has rallied back.
“I think we have had an overall good season so far,” Ballay said. “We started out very well in out-of-conference play but we had a bit of a rough start in conference play. We are really working on improving possession because we ran into trouble with that our first weekend of conference play.”
Thompson agreed the team is making a strong fight for the playoffs and hopefully, a MAAC Championship.
“I think the fact that we haven’t lost in three games is huge for us as we move into the last two weekends of conference play,” Thompson said. “While we were disappointed to have dropped the first two games of conference play, we still feel like we are in a decent position to make it into the top four.”
Coach Hounsome said that the Broncs’ conference record has been on his mind as the season comes to a close.
“Securing a berth in the MAAC playoffs is the only thing we are thinking of,” Hounsome said.
Ballay and the Broncs recognize the importance of this weekend.
“This is a huge weekend for us,” Ballay said. “We are going into this weekend in search of two wins so we can improve our position for playoffs. Our goal overall is to get into playoffs and win a conference championship.”
The focus and preparation for these games remain the same, according to Thompson.
“We are a possession-based team so it is always our goal to be able to go out and possess the ball for the majority of the 90 minutes,” Thompson said. “We expect to do just that this weekend.”