College Field Hockey
Rider University 2, Saint Francis (Pa.) University 1
Northeast Conference Game
LAWRENCEVILLE--Sophomore Katie Fanning (Bridgewater/Bridgewater-Raritan) scored her first career goal with less than five minutes left in regulation as the Rider University field hockey team defeated Saint Francis (Pa.) 2-1 at Ben Cohen Field Friday evening in Lawrenceville.
Fanning collected a rebound with 4:48 left to break the 1-1 tie.
"We had to come up with our 'A' game tonight," said head coach Lori Hussong. "Saint Francis is having a great season, they are an outstanding team and their goalkeeping was excellent."
"The team worked really hard tonight," said Fanning. "I was there at the right time and it just happened. It was a perfect opportunity."
Undefeated in Northeast Conference play coming into the contest, Saint Francis opened the scoring with 4:29 left in the first half before Rider junior Sandra Penas (Barcelona, Spain) used a rush up the left side just 24 seconds later to tie the game at 1-1.
"It was so big to tie the game right away," Hussong said. "From that point forward, it was anyone's game. We toughed it out and got the win. I'm proud of the team."
For Penas, the reigning NEC Offensive Player of the Year, it was her team-leading 14th goal of the season and the 48 goal of her Rider career.
The teams went into intermission tied 1-1.
Rider out-shot the Red Flash 26-11 and the Broncs held a 19-6 penalty corner advantage.
Freshman goalie Joelle Prettyman (Newark, Del./St. Mark's) made four saves to pick up her sixth win of the season.
Kate Vitali made 14 saves for the Red Flash, including several from point blank range late in the second half.
Rider defeated Saint Francis (Pa.) twice last season, 2-0 at Loretto, Pa. and 2-0 in the NEC playoffs in Lawrenceville. Rider improves to 15-0 all-time against the Red Flash.
Rider has won six NEC regular season titles, including the last three in a row (2001, 2003, 2005,2009, 2010, 2011) and the Broncs have won five NEC tournament titles (2000, 2002, 2004, 2010, 2011), including the last two in a row.
Rider has qualified for the NEC playoffs all 13 seasons under Hussong.
"We struggled at the beginning of the season," Fanning said. "Our momentum is picking up at the right time as we head into the playoffs."
"Every year, making the playoffs is special," Hussong said. "Making it 13 straight times really says a lot about the players currently in the program and the players who have gone through the program. It is tradition and they don't want to be the first team not to qualify. They put their heart and soul in the game and came through for us."
Rider (12-5, 5-1 NEC) and Saint Francis (11-5, 5-1 NEC) enter the final day of the regular season tied for first place with the Broncs holding the head to head tiebreaker. If Rider defeats Monmouth University at 3pm Sunday, the Broncs will host the four-team NEC playoffs November 2-3.
"We are trying to get home field advantage," Fanning said. "We love this field and want to win another championship here."
"Sunday is key," Hussong added. "We would much rather play at home than driving out to Saint Francis or to Monmouth. There is a lot riding on the game and we will be ready."
Rider is 23-1 all-time at Ben Cohen Field, which opened in the fall of 2010.
Rider will honor its senior class of Jackie Adams (Medford Lakes/Shawnee), Gabby Burgo (Collingswood) Ellie LaBar (Oaklyn/Collingswood) and Marlaine Schneider (Feasterville, Pa./Neshaminy) prior to the game on Sunday.
"This group of seniors has grown in so many ways," Hussong said. "Not only as field hockey players but as great people as well. They have come together so well to lead this team and show the younger players what the traditions are and also have been great role models."