Injury-riddled Broncs split in difficult week

By Carolo Pascale

Tests of will and strength can only go on for so long until something finally gives way. Rider women’s soccer has learned this lesson throughout its season. The injury-plagued Broncs played their third straight slate of games on only two days of rest, first defeating the Marist Red Foxes 2-1 in double overtime on Oct. 13, before falling 2-0 to the Niagara Purple Eagles on Oct. 16.

Since their second game of MAAC play, the Broncs haven’t had more than three days of rest between their games, giving them little time to recover. Despite this, the team performed relatively well, sporting a 3-4-1 record in conference play, and were undefeated at home during this stretch.

Double overtime deja vu

When the Broncs took on the Marist Red Foxes, they were coming off of a double overtime victory against Manhattan just a few days prior. Rider used their momentum, and did so once again against Marist, with junior forward Chloe Fisher scoring her second straight double overtime goal to give the Broncs a 2-1 win.

“We played really well. I thought we started off the game and set the tone early, [in the] first 15-20 minutes,” said Head Coach Drayson Hounsome. “I think the team did a great job in the second half of being more aggressive with our press, stepping in front of time and space and time. We created a lot of chances for us and scored a good first goal. It just took till second overtime for the goal to go in.”

The first goal that the Broncs scored came in the 52nd minute when sophomore midfielder Hannah Freeman scored her second goal of the season to give the Broncs a 1-0 lead.

Only a minute later, Marist scored, tying the game at one.

As 90 minutes of play ended, the game remained tied, meaning overtime for the Broncs for a second straight game. As overtime turned to double overtime, the Rider fans in the stands had deja vu as Fisher scored from almost the same spot she did in double overtime the previous game, giving the Broncs the 2-1 win.

“I take every time I’m on the field as a way to prove myself, to help the team today, in the other game, and it paid off,” Fisher said.

Rider is also missing lots of players due to injury or non-covid related illnesses. A majority of them are defenders, and now starting goalkeeper, sophomore Ellie Sciancalepore, has been ruled out for the rest of the season after sustaining an injury against Marist, according to Hounsome. When asked about Sciancalepore’s injury, Hounsome declined to give further specifics on the injury.

Broncs junior forward Makenzie Rodrigues said, “It’s been really tough to adjust to losing multiple starters and key players and having to change personnel throughout the games.”

Injuries and short rest: A deadly mixture

After their second straight double-overtime win, the Broncs hit the road and faced the Niagara Purple Eagles, once again on only two days of rest. The Broncs, reeling from a collection of injuries and non- COVID illnesses, lost to Niagara 2-0.

“The level of fatigue sustained in winning those games definitely limited our speed of play on Saturday. The team has dealt with the missing players well with unbelievable levels of effort and hard work to get those overtime wins,” said Hounsome.

The Broncs, already dealing with a lot of injuries and illness, lost another player in this game in junior midfielder Karagh Tait. She went down with an injury late in the second half and left the match in what seemed like a lot of pain.

“Tait was one of several players ill going into the game. We’ll see how she does this week. With over 30% of the team unavailable versus Niagara we need everybody we can,” Hounsome said of her injury.

In goal, with Sciancalepore out for the rest of the year, sophomore goalkeeper Rachel Ross was forced into the starting role. This was only Ross’s second game of the year and first in MAAC play.

“It felt amazing to be back in net and to be able to play in my first conference game, I’m always ready to step in when needed and finally having the opportunity was incredible,” Ross said in an email to The Rider News. “Ellie is an extremely talented keeper and I love working with her, our whole team is a family and I know they believe in both of us no matter who’s behind them in net.”

Niagara tested Ross and the Broncs early, as they scored a goal in just the first minute of the game, forcing the Broncs to dig themselves out of a hole from the very beginning of the game. The goal for Niagara came from the MAAC’s top goalscorer in junior forward Florence Vaillancourt.

“Niagara’s first goal was a wake-up call, it gave us a sense of how to adjust in the defensive line quickly to prevent any balls sent in like that again,” said Ross.

The first half ended 1-0 in favor of Niagara, but the Purple Eagles extended their lead to two goals by scoring in the 53rd minute, putting the Broncs down 2-0.

That score stood at the final. Rider only mustered up six shots in the match, including only one in the second half. Niagara registered 20 shots, putting nine on target.

The Broncs will now have a much-needed week-long break as they will face off against Quinnipiac at home on Oct. 23.

“Taking this full week to recover and prepare for Quinnipiac is so important for us,” said Ross. “We are a strong contender in the MAAC and we know it. As the conference slowly wraps up and we prepare for playoffs we know we need to continue to push through any diversity that may come to us and work as hard as possible to make an impact this season. The teams are all very competitive and we have to play every game like it’s our last.”

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