After six Northeast Conference championships and eight regular season titles, the field hockey team found itself a new home in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. For the first time ever, the MAAC established field hockey as one of its sports, attracting Rider to switch conferences along with Quinnipiac, Bryant, Robert Morris, Monmouth and Siena.
This season, the Broncs were in new waters, boasting a roster that included nine new freshmen. Through their hard work and determination, Rider was able to finish 13-7 overall and 5-1 in the conference, claiming the inaugural MAAC regular season championship.
“This year was a big learning curve for a lot of the freshmen,” head coach Lori Hussong said about the season. “The fact that we had nine freshmen joining our team, with a good core group of kids from last years team, it did take a little longer for everything to gel together. As the season progressed, we got better and better. The team that is coming back has a lot to look forward too. Overall, we were very happy to put ourselves in a position to qualify for the playoffs and to win the regular season.”
As the number one seed in the MAAC tournament, the Broncs were unable to live up the expectations, losing in the semifinal to tournament runner-up Robert Morris, a team Rider was able to defeat 2-0 in the fall season.
“You have to learn from losing,” Hussong said about the disappointing ending. “When you step on the field and something like that happens to you, where you’re supposed to win the game and you come up short, you have to evaluate yourself and the team as a whole to figure out where you went wrong. However, we are still very proud of what we did accomplish. You can’t be on top every season. The lesson we learned is that you need to be prepared every single day, especially during tournament time.”
The Broncs still had many positive outcomes. Sandra Penas, the senior co-captain of the team, officially surpassed Virginia Egusquiza, ’11, on the all-time points list with 164 points. The MAAC also honored the team with three post-season awards. Penas was named MAAC Co-Player of the Year, freshman Nicole Hareau was named the MAAC Rookie of the Year and Hussong was named MAAC Coach of the Year.
With the conclusion of the season, Penas, co-captain Alicia Govannicci, Shari Grinceri and Kristine Dougherty completed their collegiate careers. Hussong knows that the departure of these athletes leaves big shoes to fill.
“All four of them will certainly be hard to replace,” Hussong said. “They were integral to our successes this year. Still, I am confident that the upperclassmen coming up will be able to continue the tradition and lead the program in the right direction.”
Hussong looks forward to the future. “We have a good core group of upperclassmen who are returning and our freshmen class is outstanding. It will be a rebuilding year because we are so young, but I believe that the lessons we learned this year we will be a motivating factor next season.”