2012 Rider University Field Hockey Outlook
Every season, an athletic team has to reinvent itself. Replace players who graduate and integrate the freshmen and newcomers into an established system.
Never has that been more so the case than with the 2012 Rider University field hockey team.
Gone and graduated is Rider's all-time leading scorer, Virginia Egusquiza, a three-time Northeast Conference Player of the Year. Also gone are six other letterwinners, including five seniors who helped the Broncs to the best four-year record in the history of the program. Included in that stellar class was goalie Rebecca Lotito who led the nation in goals against average two years in a row as Rider advanced to back to back NCAA Play-In games.
"This year, more than ever, we've gone back to the basics," said Lori Hussong who is entering her 13th season at Rider with a 169-71 record, including a 19-2 mark last season. "You can't move forward until you know your basic fundamentals and with the talent that graduated, we are going to have to do the little things exceptionally well to continue to be successful. If we can get everyone pitching in to play smart hockey then we will set ourselves up for a very rewarding season."
What has head coach Lori Hussong (and husband and assistant coach Dan Hussong) optimistic is the return of 14 letterwinners, including seven starters who make up the nucleus of the three-time defending NEC regular season champions including 2011 NEC Offensive Player of the Year and 2010 NEC Rookie of the Year, junior Sandra Penas as well as 2011 NEC Second Team honoree and the 2009 NEC Rookie of the Year, current senior Marlaine Schneider.
"Our returning core is strong and competitive," said Dan Hussong. "They have played at a high level. We are working on making the good things contagious. Our staple has always been to try to out-work the other team and we expect that to continue."
Adams, a team captain and 53-game veteran, switched to the back line last season, with Rider utilizing her speed to stabilize the defense.
"Jackie is a versatile player who does whatever we ask," Lori Hussong said. "This year Jackie will return to the front line and be counted on to add speed and tenacity by pushing the ball up the field."
Burgo appeared in all 21 games as a junior, making five starts and is a veteran of 52 games.
"We expect Gabby to continue to be productive for us," Lori Hussong said. "Every year, she has gained more and more confidence and we are looking for good things from her in her final season."
LaBar appeared in 15 games, making 12 starts as a junior and is a veteran 54 games.
Ellie battled an injury that limited her play last season," Lori Hussong said. "She is now back at full strength. We have always taken pride in putting together a defensive back line that can shut down our opponents' strengths and keep the ball out of our circle. Ellie is a fierce competitor and we can rely on her to play great defense for us."
Schneider, the 2009 NEC Rookie of the Year, is a 59-game veteran and enters her senior season 11th on Rider's all-time scoring list with 83 points (27g, 29a).
"When the chips are down, Marlaine steps up," Lori Hussong said. "She gets things going. She plays every play like it is her last and really enjoys playing the game. Marlaine has the ability to take over the game by playing fearless. She gets everyone to give their best effort."
Dougherty appeared in six games for Rider as a sophomore and is a veteran of 15 contests.
"Kristine worked hard over the summer," said Lori Hussong. "We are looking to use her as a role player and fill in some spots when we need some energy in the game. We see her production increasing as the 2012 season evolves."
Fitzgerald, from Lexington, Massachusetts, was a three-year letterwinner in field hockey at Lexington High School and did not see any time on the field for the Wildcats in 2010 before coming to Rider.
"Ailish is very skilled," Lori Hussong said. "She is capable of being very productive for us."
Govannicci, a team captain, was a Second Team NEC honoree in 2011, starting all 21 games while ranking fourth on the team in assists.
"Alicia is our 'go to' player this season," said Lori Hussong. "She is going to be the player to pull things together and make things happen. Her leadership by example can be seen daily in everything that she does. We are hoping that her teammates will emulate her work ethic. She is a very special player and we absolutely love watching her relentless effort every minute she is on the field."
"She seems to be involved in every play on the field, both on offense and defense," Dan Hussong added.
Grinceri appeared in six games and is a 13-game veteran.
"Shari has worked hard in the off season," Lori Hussong said. "As she continues to improve and gain confidence that will make us deeper on the back line."
Penas enters her junior season 10th on Rider's all-time scoring list with 84 points (34g, 16a) and as a sophomore, was named to the Longstreth/NFHCA Mid-Atlantic Region Second Team as Rider's leading scorer.
"Sandra realizes that she is now one of the leaders on the field," said Lori Hussong. "She has set high expectations for her play and has embraced the fact that she will be counted on to put pressure on the opposing goalie. "She is in great condition and she is more than willing to get things going for us. She is a playmaker and will be involved in every aspect of the offense."
McCormick, out of West Windsor-Plainsboro South, started all 18 games as a rookie at SHU in 2011 with two assists.
"We are happy to have Laura join the team," said Lori Hussong. "We feel fortunate that she chose to come here. She is very strong, has a big hit and is a smart player. Laura plays our style and will be an 'impact' player for us."
Dileo appeared in all 21 games, making 15 starts including the last eight games of the 2011 season.
"We expect that Stacey will pick up where she left off at the end of last season," Lori Hussong said. "She had a strong finish to the season; she has an attacking mentality and gained confidence as the year went on. Her ability to read and intercept passes and counter attack is outstanding."
Fanning appeared in all 21 games as a Rider rookie, helping to anchor one of the top defensive units in the nation and had two defensive saves on the season but she is expected to move to the midfield and forward position this season.
"We want to better utilize Katie's speed and tenacity," Lori Hussong said. "She provides instant energy when she is in the game. She is a great person and works very hard."
Fillmyer appeared in 19 games, all off the bench and scored her first collegiate goal in Rider's Northeast Conference win at Siena.
"Dezarae is going to see time in the midfield this year," said Lori Hussong. "She has all of the tools and fits into our hustling style of play. We expect her to continue to improve and provide us with energy every time she steps on the field."
Kok appeared in 20 games as a rookie, making 12 starts and had 10 goals on the season including goals in her first three collegiate games.
"Eefje is one of the hardest working players we have on the team," Lori Hussong said. "Last year she got better and better every day and scored several goals in some key situations. We are looking for her to continue her solid play and help fill some of the spots that we lost to graduation."
"She is not only a good athlete but a very skilled player," Dan Hussong added. "Eefje is a clutch player and is a 'game changer'."
Ossowski appeared in seven games her rookie season.
"Karly continues to improve," Lori Hussong said. "She is very skilled and the more confidence she gets, the better she will play."
Schwab appeared in six games for the Broncs in 2012.
"Rachel came back in great condition and ready to go," Lori Hussong said. "She is in top form and continues to improve. She had a solid spring and it is very important for her to be ready when her number is called."
"The returnees are doing a great job in helping the newcomers settle into our Rider field hockey family," Lori Hussong added. "It is going to take time for this group to gel together. This year, more than ever, we know that we have to have everyone onboard and willing to pitch in to be successful. If we can get everyone to buy into our philosophy of teamwork and best effort and to always strive to improve and not settle for anything less that the best, we will continue to be successful."
Rider has nine newcomers including seven rookies that make up the Class of 2016.
"The rookie class is made up of a good, solid group of athletes," Lori Hussong said about the seven freshmen. "They are character student-athletes and they already have embraced the family type atmosphere that we have promoted throughout the years. They are talented and skilled and as they continue to learn to practice hard and give their best effort they are all capable of becoming important ingredients for our success."
Melyssa Alonso is a 5-4 midfielder from Toms River High School North, earning First Team All-State and All-County honors as her team's most valuable player.
"Melyssa is a hard-working player that is quick and determined," said Lori Hussong. "As her skills continue to improve, she is going to be a player to be reckoned with."
Alexis Carter is a 5-8 defender who lettered at Manasquan High School while earning a spot on the academic honor roll.
"Alexis is going to grow as the season goes on," said Lori Hussong. "She works hard and is improving each day."
Rachel Ippolite, a 5-3 center-midfielder and defender from Kingsway High School, was a First Team All-South Jersey honoree and was named the Player of the Year by the Gloucester County Times.
"Rachel is a diamond in the rough," said Lori Hussong. "We can play her in the midfield and also on the back line and she is going to be a key player for our corners as well. We have high expectations for her. She is a competitor and sees the field very well."
Alexa McIntyre, a 5-4 forward from Kingsway High School, earned First Team All-South Jersey Group III and First Team All-Tri County honors, while earning High Honor Roll academic honors.
"Alexa is another up and coming player," Lori Hussong said. "She is very quick and we are hoping to get her experience at the right wing spot. We see her continuing to improve as she gets more experience this season."
Muschs, a 5-7 center midfielder, comes to Rider from Lycee Emile Jacqmain High School in Belgium, playing in the highest Women's Honors Division.
"Allison is a very solid defensive player," Lori Hussong said. "She is a smart player whose skills allow her to be cool under pressure and confident in her play. "She has great stick skills and vision and will be a key ingredient to our success. She is going to make the players around her that much better."
"Ideally you would like to have an upperclassman, someone who can take them under their wing and guide them in the right direction," said Dan Hussong. "We are confident that with hard work, Joelle and Alicia will step in and get the job done."
Prettyman is a 5'6" net minder who comes to Lawrenceville from St. Mark's in Delaware where she earned First Team All-State honors in 2011 after being named Second Team All-State in 2010.
"Joelle looks like the starter at this point in the preseason," Dan Hussong added. "She is very athletic and lively. She has solid skills and is very coachable and has a great work ethic."
Carthan, who is 6'0", comes to Lawrenceville from Bordentown, New Jersey, 10 minutes south of Rider, where she earned First Team Burlington County Scholastic League honors while recording a state high 327 saves as a senior.
"Alicia is a good athlete in her own right," Dan Hussong said. "She is wide open to learning and is receptive to our coaching. She is continuing to improve and both goalies are going to push each other to get better. There is no job security and both Joelle and Alicia are going to have to earn their playing time every day."
The 18-game schedule includes 10 games on the road with a five-game road trip from September 7-17 and four road games in a row from October 3-14.
"It is so important that our players have confidence in each other and work together to achieve our goals," Lori Hussong said. "We had a lot of success during our spring season and there is no doubt in our minds that we can continue to compete with everyone on our schedule. This is probably one the toughest non- conference schedules that we've put together and if our team can learn to play hard together we should experience success."
The Broncs open at Drexel August 26, before hosting Villanova at Ben Cohen Field on August 31.
Rider is undefeated in two seasons (17 games) on its new lighted turf field.
Other opponents on the non-conference slate include Colgate (September 2), Lafayette (September 7), Hofstra (September 9), Pennsylvania (September 12), La Salle (September 15), UC-Davis (September 17), Lock Haven (September 22) and Lehigh on September 30.
We start out with some really tough competition," Lori Hussong said. "A lot of the games are '50-50' games; they can go either way. The experience that we gain by playing tough competition really prepares us for the conference. We are trying to get good, quality experience by playing good, quality teams."
The NEC opens play on October 7 with Rider traveling to Robert Morris to open defense of its title. Rider hosts Siena, Bryant, Saint Francis (Pa.) and Monmouth in 2012 with road games against Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac.
"Programs can emerge," said Lori Hussong. "More than ever, there are no sure-fire conference wins. Every game is an absolute fight and with the past success that we've had, everyone seems to play their best against us."
Picked to place runner-up in the NEC coaches' poll, Rider is 81-18 (.818 winning percentage) in the conference under Hussong and the Broncs enter 2012 having won 23 straight NEC regular season contests.
"Four NEC coaches did not vote for Rider to be atop the standings at the end of the season so we have a lot to prove," Dan Hussong added.
"I don't anticipate that it will only be one other team and Rider at the top of the standings again," Lori Hussong said. "The gap is closing and the competition has increased. It really makes every game that much more precious. You can't take a game off and expect to be successful."
Hussong has led Rider to the playoffs in all 12 of her seasons at Rider, with the Broncs advancing to the NEC championship game 10 times, a trend that is expected to continue.
"It is hard to maintain the level of success," Lori Hussong said. "The players rely on the fact that the alumni before them set this standard of excellence and commitment to the team and they don't want to do anything to let them down. This year is going to be more difficult with the players that graduated but I feel we are up to the challenge."
"We recruit players based on what this program and Rider University has to offer," added Dan Hussong. "Those high expectations are part of what attracts quality student-athletes to our program. They want to be part of something special, not only on the field but part of a great University as well. They want to be challenged and we look forward to the pressures of that challenge and tradition each season. We emphasize to give your best effort in everything you do, on and off the field and our players, past and present have done that."