Season opens Friday at Colgate
Courtesy: Rider Sports Information  
Release:  08/29/2013

Lori Hussong, in her 14th season at Rider
Courtesy: Peter G. Borg (Rider University)
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2013 Rider University Field Hockey Outlook

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

A new conference affiliation, but with the same teams.  The chance to win the inaugural Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference regular season title which follows four straight regular season conference championships.  13 straight playoff appearances.  Nine new comers to go along with 13 returning letterwinners.  And for the Rider Broncs, playing for the right to advance to the NCAA Play-In for the fourth year in a row, with the last three conference title games contested on Ben Cohen Field.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

“You are going to see a young team mixed in with a strong group of veterans,” said head coach Lori Hussong who begins her 14th season seventh on the active NCAA Division I coaching victory list with 184 wins.  “The team is going to work hard to improve every day; the season may change but that ‘work ethic’ staple of our team will always stay the same.”

Staying the same and leading the charge is the senior class of Kristine Dougherty, Alicia Govannicci, Shari Grinceri and Sandra Penas, a group that has amassed 50 wins and is chasing the 67 victory plateau set by last season’s seniors.

A 60-game veteran, Penas, the 2013 Preseason MAAC Player of the Year, enters her final season third on Rider’s all-time scoring list.

“Sandra does all the dirty work,” said assistant coach Dan Hussong about Penas, who was honored as Rider’s Athlete of the Year in 2012-13 after earning Third Team All-America and First Team All-Region honors.  “She has so many weapons to pass to this season.  Her effort level is selfless.  She has all of the intangibles.”

“Sandra put us on her back in the conference title game last season and made sure we won,” Lori Hussong remembered.  “She has embraced the edict that hard work will pay off.  She is humble and all about the team.  That is who she is.  She is more proud of the team being picked first in the preseason poll than any individual accolades.”

Trailing 2-1 with less than 12 minutes left in the Northeast Conference Title game, Penas tied the score on a penalty corner and followed up with an unassisted game-winner with 7:12 left as Rider won 3-2 with Penas earning Tournament Most Valuable Player honors.

Govannicci, a Preseason All-MAAC selection, is a 62-game veteran and comes into the season with 12 career goals and 12 career assists.

“Alicia leads by example,” said Lori Hussong.  “She hustles and plays as hard as she can every single minute on the field.  She has grown into her leadership role as a second-year captain.  She is going to lead the team and her play is outstanding.  She leaves everything on the field and is a great example for not only the younger players, but her teammates as well.”

“Alicia may be one of the most underrated players in the history of our program,” Dan Hussong said about the All-Conference honoree.  “She is talented enough to play anywhere in the country.”

Dougherty is a 19-game veteran and someone Lori Hussong feels will add depth to the offense.

“Kristine has improved a lot and she is going to help us out offensively,” said Lori Hussong.  “She worked very hard in the off-season and we are very pleased with her progress.”

Unfortunately for the Broncs, the injury bug has hit early this season with Grinceri lost for the year with a concussion.

“Shari is out for the season with a concussion,” Lori Hussong said.  “She is still a valued member of the team and will help us out on the sidelines.  She is a great person to still have in the program for her senior season; she is very positive and wants to help make the team better, even though she is injured.”

The junior class, which combined for 84 games (59 starts) in 2012, consists of Stacey Dileo, Katie Fanning, Dezarae Fillmyer, Laura McCormick, Karly Ossowski and Rachel Schwab.

Dileo started all 21 games as a sophomore and the 42-game veteran has helped anchor Rider’s traditionally stingy back defensive line.

“Stacey’s intercepting skills are outstanding,” Lori Hussong said.  “We have a veteran defensive group that is playing with confidence and she is a big reason why.”

Fanning also played in all 21 games and is a 42-game veteran who will help key the offense after being moved to the forward position.

“Katie is working hard,” said Lori Hussong.  “We moved her to the forward line because she is a hard working player who will give us solid minutes on the field.”

Fillmyer enters the season with 37 games of experience on the back line.

“Dezarae is a complete defender who right now is playing at her best,” said Lori Hussong.  “She has grown into a leadership role and has embraced instructing and helping out the younger players.  She is hard to get by on defense but is also patient and does many things well.  She has really developed into someone we can count on to help the team succeed.”

McCormick played in 13 games as a sophomore in 2012 after transferring from Sacred Heart University.

“Laura is very skilled, has the ability to score and is also a good defender,” Lori Hussong said.  “We are looking to use her in the midfield and on the front line this year.  She is a player that is really going to be able to help us.”

Ossowski enters the season with 13 games of experience on the defensive line.

“Karly continues to work hard and is gaining more confidence,” said Lori Hussong

Schwab enters 2013 with 11 games at the midfield and back positions.

“Rachel worked hard over the summer and has improved tremendously since her freshman season,” said Lori Hussong.  “She is going to add depth to the defensive unit.”

Returning sophomores include Melyssa Alonso, Rachel Ippolite and Joelle Prettyman

Alonso appeared in eight games as a Rider rookie.

“Melyssa is having a great preseason and has improved tremendously,” Lori Hussong said.  “We are moving her to the front line.  Every day she improves, works hard and is really learning the game.”

Ippolite played in all 21 games as a freshman (making 20 starts) and earned Second Team All-NEC honors after a four goal, two assist season.

“Rachel had an awesome rookie season, earning All-Conference honors and we are looking for great things from her,” Lori Hussong said.  “She is growing into a leadership role and we expect that to continue.”

Prettyman took over the starting goalie job midway through her rookie campaign and allowed only 13 goals the rest of the way as Rider advanced to the NCAA Play-In game, falling in overtime at the University of Massachusetts.

“Joelle has the skill but there is also psychology involved,” said Dan Hussong about his sophomore goalie.  “We had to rely on her to be a leader and direct the defenders in front of her as a freshman and that’s not an easy thing to do.  As the year went on, she gained confidence and improved her communication skills.  She works hard and listens and continues to improve and grow into the position.”

With the graduation of the most successful senior class in program history, Rider had to replenish the roster and they did that with nine talented newcomers.

Joining the team as members of the Class of 2017 are Carlota Clotet Alsina, Nicole Barrett, Melissa Cunningham, Nicole Hareau, Carrie Nyce, Kalyn O’Brien, Carlie Spaeder, Carolina Vergroesen and Dorothy Von Ahnen.

“These nine recruits represent one of our biggest classes ever and will prove themselves to be one of our best yet,” said Lori Hussong.  “They come from all over the world, yet they are ‘cut from the same cloth’.  They are all high in energy, rich in skill and very positive.  We expect them to buy into our team philosophy of giving their best effort from the start and help us position our team to make a run for the first MAAC field hockey title.”

A 4.0 student from Barcelona, Spain, Clotet Alsina is a defender that plays for Catalonia's highest level Regional Team.  She is also a member of the Spanish U18 National Team where she has represented Spain in several international tournaments.

“Carlota is an outstanding player and we are happy she chose to come to Rider,” said Lori Hussong.  “Her skills and field vision are exceptional.  We expect her to be one of the catalysts on the offensive side of the field.”

Barrett, from Neshanic Station, New Jersey (Hunterdon Central High School) is a midfielder/forward who earned First Team All-Skyland Conference honors in 2011 and 2012 and was a two-time team Most Valuable Player.

“Nicole is improving every day at practice,” Lori Hussong said.  “We are looking for her to come into the game and give the team some energy.  She is hard working and has a good sense of the game.”

Cunningham, from Oaklyn, New Jersey (Collingswood High School), earned First Team All-Group II and First Team All-Conference honors, leading her team with 20 assists from the midfield position.

“Melissa is recovering from ACL injury,” said Lori Hussong.  “We may have her by the middle of the season.  She is an exceptional player and is diverse; she can play any position on the field.  Being injured and having to watch from the sideline is going to give her a new perspective and may be a blessing in disguise for her development.”

Hareau comes to Rider from Montevideo, Uruguay and South America.  An attack player from Club Bigua, she led the league in scoring for the past three seasons.  Currently a member of the Uruguay National Team, Hareau has competed internationally at both the U16 and U18 levels and has been one of the team’s top scorers.  She recently played in the Four Nations Tournament and was the youngest player invited to train and play with the Senior National team.  She was also selected to the Uruguay Indoor National team.

“Nicole is another exceptional player that has a knack for scoring,” Lori Hussong said.  “She has a variety of shots.”

Nyce is a midfielder from Pennsburg, Pennsylvania (Upper Perkiomen High School) where she was a two-time All-State and First Team All-Conference and All-Area honoree as a four-year starter.

“Carrie is an outstanding athlete,” Lori Hussong said.  “She anticipates plays and is a tremendous competitor on the field.”

O’Brien, from Southampton, New Jersey (Seneca High School), was a First Team All-Conference honoree and earned team Offensive Most Valuable Player honors.

“Kalyn brings energy to the game and she will be used to bolster the offensive attack,” Lori Hussong said.  “She is quick and we expect that she will flourish in our system.”

Spaeder comes to Rider from Newtown Square, Pennsylvania (Cardinal O’Hara) where she was a three-time All-Catholic League honoree and First Team All-Delaware County, scoring 76 career goals.

“Carlie is hard-nosed, and really fast,” Lori Hussong said.  “She comes from the same high school as Alicia Govannicci.  We are going to use her speed on the outside to open up the middle of the field for our offense.  The defense has to play more cautious when you stretch the field on the offensive end.”

A 4.0 student, Vergroesen comes to Rider from Amsterdam, (Netherlands).  A midfielder/defender, Vergroesen plays in the highest women’s division level nationally for the H.C. Pinoke Club.

“Carolina is a good defender,” Lori Hussong said.  “As she acclimates to our system, her production will improve on the field.  She is tough player to get by.”

A goalie from Hightstown, New Jersey (Hightstown High School), Von Ahnen earned First Team Central Jersey Field Hockey Coaches Association honors and First Team All-Colonial Valley Conference honors and was named an 'Unsung Hero Award Winner' by The Trentonian.

“Dorothy’s role is to be ready at a moment’s notice,” Dan Hussong said.  “She is improving every day and is a hard worker.  She is going to make Joelle Prettyman that much better by pushing her in practice. “

“We have a lot of players who can put the ball in the cage so it is going to be difficult for our opponents to just key in on one player,” Lori Hussong added.  “Starters or subs, everyone who is in the game is going to keep the level of play up.”

Rider will open its 2013 schedule on August 30 in New York at Colgate and the home opener will take place at 7 p.m. on September 20 at Ben Cohen Field against Towson.

“It will be more of the same as far as the schedule goes,” said Lori Hussong.  “This year’s schedule will be as challenging as it has been in years past.  The non-conference portion of our schedule has been designed to help prepare us for conference play.”

After the opener at Colgate, Rider will continue the season with road games against Georgetown (at College Park, Maryland) on September 1, at Villanova on September 4, at Brown on September 8 and at Hofstra on September 13.

After the home opener against Towson, the Broncs hit the road again for five straight games, against Appalachian State (at JMU) on September 22, at nationally ranked Drexel on September 25, at Lock Haven on September 28, at Saint Joseph’s on October 4 and at Lehigh on October 6.

10 of Rider’s first 11 games are away from home.

The University of Pennsylvania will visit Rider for a Play 4 The Cure game on October 9 at 5 p.m. and the Broncs open MAAC play against Robert Morris at noon on October 13.

After MAAC games at Bryant (October 18) and Siena (October 20), Rider hosts MAAC-rivals Quinnipiac on October 25 at 4 p.m. and Sacred Heart on October 27 at noon when the Broncs will honor their graduating seniors.

The Broncs play at MAAC-rival Monmouth on November 1 and Rider will complete the regular season against cross-town rival and perennial national power Princeton on November 3.  The Tigers begin the season ranked third in the Penn Monto National Coaches Poll.

Rider is 26-1 all-time at Ben Cohen Field and the lighted turf field will host the four-team MAAC playoffs November 8-9.

A new league and a new season but the Broncs have the same goals of playing hard, qualifying for the conference playoffs while maintaining the expectations that come with 13 straight playoff appearances.

For Lori and Dan Hussong and the Rider University field hockey team, the more things change, the more they stay the same.

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