Defending champion Rider picked
runner-up in the Northeast Conference
and predicted to make 13th straight playoff appearance
SOMERSET--In voting conducted by the Northeast Conference head coaches, the Rider University field hockey team received three first-place votes and was picked to place runner-up in the 2012 Northeast Conference, it was announced Tuesday.
In 2011, Rider (19-2, 7-0 NEC) completed its third straight undefeated run through conference play and won the NEC championship with a 2-1 decision over in-state rival Monmouth, advancing to the NCAA Play In game against Princeton University. The Hawks received four first place votes and are picked to win the conference.
"We lost a tremendous group of athletes to graduation," said head coach Lori Hussong. "Even though we are going to be young and this will be a rebuilding year for us, we are more than confident that our team will be capable of competing for another conference crown. Being picked second and in the mix for the four-team playoffs, especially knowing what we have to replace due to graduation is an honor."
Rider ended the 2011 season in the NCAA Play-In game for the second straight year and the Broncs were 22nd in the final NFHCA Poll.
Hussong, in her 13th season at Rider, was named NEC Coach of the Year in 2011 for the fourth time (2003, 2005, 2009) and enters the 2012 season in the top 10 nationally among active Division I coaches with a record of 169-71 (.704 winning percentage). Rider is 81-18 in NEC play under Hussong (.818 winning percentage).
Rider has made the four-team conference playoffs all 12 seasons under Hussong and even with six regular season titles (2001, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2011) and five NEC championships (2000, 2002, 2004, 2010, 2011), Rider has only been picked to finish first two times (2010 and 2011).
This is the first time that Monmouth has been picked to win the NEC. Quinnipiac was picked to win the league from 2000-2004 and perennial power Lock Haven was picked to finish first from 2005-2009. The Lady Eagles, winners of the 2009 NEC championship game, are now members of the Atlantic 10 for field hockey after going 43-3 in NEC regular season play from 2004-2009. Two of the three losses were to Rider.
Quinnipiac received the other first place vote and the Bobcats are picked to finish fourth in the preseason poll, behind Saint Francis (Pa.) who qualified for the NEC playoffs in 2011, losing in the semifinals to Rider by a 2-0 score.
Robert Morris, Sacred Heart, Bryant and Siena round out the preseason poll.
The Broncs return 14 letterwinners, including 2011 NEC Offensive Player of the Year and 2010 NEC Rookie of the Year, junior Sandra Penas (Barcelona, Spain/ies Joaquim Blume) as well as 2011 NEC Second Team honoree and the 2009 NEC Rookie of the Year, current senior Marlaine Schneider (Feasterville, Pa./Neshaminy).
Penas led the NEC in goals scored last season with Schneider and Penas tying for second in the conference in points behind NEC Player of the Year Virginia Egusquiza. Egusquiza, Rider's all-time leading scorer, graduated in May.
The top four teams qualify for the NEC playoffs November 2-3 with the top seed serving as host.
The Broncs open the 2012 campaign on August 26 in Philadelphia against Drexel and the home opener will take place at 4pm on August 31 at Ben Cohen Field against Villanova.
After hosting Colgate on September 2 at noon, the Broncs hit the road for five straight games, Lafayette (September 7), Hofstra (September 9), Pennsylvania (September 12), La Salle (September 15) and UC Davis, which will be played in Hempstead, New York (at Hofstra) on September 17.
Rider closes out September with two straight home games, against former NEC-rival Lock Haven on September 22 and the Lehigh Mountain Hawks are scheduled to visit Lawrenceville on September 30.
The Broncs close out the non-conference portion of the schedule with a trip to New York to face Columbia on October 3.
Winners of 23 NEC regular season games in a row, the Broncs open conference play at Robert Morris on October 7 with the first NEC home game on October 19 at 4pm against Siena.
"As the years have gone by, our conference has gotten stronger and stronger," Hussong said. "It's hard to pick out who is going to be the best team at the end of the season. There is no one game on the schedule that is a sure win. Every game is extremely competitive and I expect that will be the case this season."
Rider also hosts NEC games against Bryant (October 21), Saint Francis (Pa.) October 26 and a visit by cross-state rival Monmouth on October 28 closes out the regular season.
Weather permitting, all home games will have video streamed live, on a pay per view basis via BroncVision and free Livestats will also be available for all home games and most away contests at www.GoBroncs.com.