By Stephen Neukam
Offensive power was key for the women’s soccer team during the past two matches, with Rider scoring four goals over two games, defeating Quinnipiac 2-1 on Oct. 17, drawing Canisius 2-2 on Oct. 20 and clinching a MAAC Tournament berth.
The game against Quinnipiac, which sat ahead of the Broncs in the MAAC standings before the game, got off on a bad foot for Rider. The Bobcats took a 1-0 lead in the 22nd minute.
The Broncs had experience playing behind from earlier in the season, with their first three games being won or drawn by a second-half comeback.
This game would prove no different, with senior forward Kourtney Cunningham equalizing just six minutes later off of an assist from senior midfielder Sam Picinich. The match remained tied going into halftime.
In the 58th minute, Rider found the breakthrough goal that sealed the victory. Junior midfielder Valeria Pascuet sent in a cross that found the head of freshman defender Niamh Cashin, whose header found the feet of sophomore defender Ashlyn Johnson. Johnson turned and fired the ball into the net for her first ever collegiate goal.
Rider would see the victory out with a score of 2-1.
“I wouldn’t have wanted to score any other way,” said Johnson when speaking of her game-winning heroics. “It was a team effort getting the goal, so it was exciting.”
The performance by Cunningham continued her rise up the Bronc all-time leaderboards. Her goal, the 20th of her career, makes her the seventh player in program history to score 20 or more goals.
The victory over Quinnipiac saw Rider rise to fifth in the conference.
Canisius proved a more stubborn opponent for the Broncs.
The Broncs would take the lead early. A corner kick from Pascuet found its way to the left post where freshman midfielder Sarah Gellert tapped the ball in for the Rider lead in the eighth minute. It was Gellert’s first career collegiate goal.
The lead would not last long, as the Griffs pulled the game level in the 22nd minute.
The match would remain tied until the 73rd minute, when Cunningham played graduate student forward Emily Curteis through for a one-on-one versus the keeper. Curteis beat the goalie and gave Rider the 2-1.
Canisius would break Bronc hearts in the final minutes though, with the Griffs tying the game again with just over two minutes left in regulation. Both overtime periods were uneventful and the game finished 2-2.
The draw was enough to clinch a sixth-consecutive postseason appearance for Rider. Canisius had fallen out of contention for a playoff spot prior to the game.
“Our expectations are such that we expect to be in [the MAAC Tournament,]” said Head Coach Drayson Hounsome. “There is more disappointment that we did not win the game.”
The game against Canisius was also senior night for Rider, with Cunningham, Picinich, goalkeeper Amy Kozlowski, defender Meghan McCabe, midfielder Sofia Soares and defender Maddie Lipton being honored before the game.
Rider will enter the postseason as either the fifth or sixth seed, meaning it will start the hunt for a championship on the road. Rider is 4-2-2 on the road this season.
The Broncs have one more test before the start of the postseason, traveling to St. Peter’s on Oct. 24 at 3 p.m.
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