By Benjamin Shinault
Collegiate lacrosse is on the rise in the United States, becoming one of the most watched college sports. With 74 clubs within Division I play, lacrosse has finally made its way to Rider, and it will begin its tenure on Ben Cohen Field this month.
In August 2022, Rider Sports Information announced that women’s lacrosse would be coming to the university. The Broncs are set to join their Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference rivals in lacrosse play as Rider was the last team to add the grueling sport.
“We are excited to be adding women’s lacrosse to our portfolio of sports offerings for women,” Rider Athletic Director Don Harnum said in a statement. “Women’s lacrosse is a sport that continues to grow and thrive, both nationally and in the MAAC, and fits extremely well into our geographic recruiting footprint.”
A bulk of Rider lacrosse’s roster is transfers from other programs, with the rest being freshmen. Head Coach Evan Mager, who is the former women’s lacrosse head coach at Fairleigh Dickinson, spoke on the state of the team.
“We are definitely getting back into the flow of things,” said Mager. “A lot of the players have not played in a real game in some time just because of transferring and setting everything up, but overall, I think they are excited every day that we are getting closer to that first game.”
The first game will be on Feb. 10 when the Broncs face off against Mager’s former team and New Jersey rival, FDU. The Broncs then play five straight games at home, something the Broncs are truly grateful for.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to be able to play at home a lot. We have 10 home games this season, which is more than most schools,” said graduate student midfielder Emily Wesoky. “Our first game is away but after that, we’re home for a while.”
Wesoky is a player that Mager has been a big fan of thus far in practices and scrimmages and she was named a captain for this season. Wesoky is coming from Wagner College, where she finished second on the team in total points.
“We’re in New Jersey, we have a lot of home games which is great for the university and great for the players, great for parents,” Mager said. “But, when building the schedule, some of it we can control, but we got lucky enough to be here a lot throughout the entire season,” Mager said.
‘We have a lot of talent’
With the Broncs hitting Ben Cohen Field for the first time as a team, Mager wants to start the team’s history in the right way, but he does not feel pressured by the situation.
“There is obviously a lot at stake when you’re a brand new program,” said Mager. “It’s less about pressure and more just excitement to be here and to represent the university and bring some benefits for it.”
Both Wesoky and sophomore midfielder Katie Walsh, a New Jersey native and transfer from FDU, are slated to bring a lot to the Broncs this season, as they lead the first team in Rider’s history.
“There’s a good pressure on us to show well for the whole school,” Wesoky said. “Usually teams, when they build a program, they have two years to build it. We’re doing it in less than a year.”
Walsh is not a stranger to success on the field, as last year with the Devils, Walsh registered 89 goals and 21 assists for 110 points. With this, Mager listed Walsh as one of the team’s captains but states that the whole team has done a great job of creating a welcoming environment on and off the field.
Walsh said, “Being here for a year and not having a season last spring, I’m just ready to go out there and play.”
‘Come see what we got’
When a new team comes along, so does a fan base. Players and coaches are urging their fellow classmates and faculty to come to the games and support the newest addition to Rider’s elite sports rotation.
“We would love to have as many people as possible, lacrosse is a very fast, physical and exciting game,” Mager said. “For people who don’t know what lacrosse is, I think they would enjoy the experience just based on the pace of play, and people who do like lacrosse usually love lacrosse.”
Wesoky and Walsh brought the same idea to play: support would be crucial and both the sport and the team are fun to watch.
“Everyone should come to see what we got … and we are going to be loud and fun no matter what the outcome is,” Wesoky said.
Rider lacrosse debuts on Feb. 10 against FDU and they will play their first home game against Saint Francis on Feb. 22.