College Field Hockey
Rider University 5, Monmouth University 2
Northeast Conference Game
Rider NEC Co-Champions
LAWRENCEVILLE--Hurricane Sandra strikes early and often for the Broncs.
Playing under the threat of Hurricane Sandy, junior Sandra Penas (Barcelona, Spain) made sure she was a force to be reckoned with, scoring twice and adding an assist as the Rider University field hockey team clinched a share of the 2012 Northeast Conference regular season title with a 5-2 win over Monmouth University on Sunday afternoon at Ben Cohen Field.
This is Rider's fourth NEC regular season title in a row and the Broncs will host the playoffs November 2-3 in Lawrenceville.
"It was a great game," said head coach Lori Hussong. "It was certainly a lot of back and forth action."
Penas and senior Marlaine Schneider (Feasterville, Pa./Neshaminy) teamed up on a corner play with junior Alicia Govannicci (Springfield, Pa./Cardinal O'Hara) scoring 9:56 into the game to give Rider (13-5) a 1-0 lead. For Govannicci, it was her second goal of the season. As a rookie, Govannicci scored the game-winner as Rider defeated Monmouth 1-0 in the 2010 NEC Title game.
"This was a tough game," Penas said. "Monmouth has always been one of our biggest rivals and we came out strong."
"Sandra was spectacular," Hussong said. "Monmouth had some difficulty containing her and keeping her out of their circle. She played determined as well as 'Mar' (Marlaine Schneider) who when it got tough, she got it going."
After Monmouth tied the game in the 21st minute, Penas scored on a corner play with freshmen Rachel Ippolite (Woolwich Twp./Kingsway Regional) and Allison Muschs (Linkebeek, Belgium) picking up the assists at the 22:20 mark of the opening half.
The Hawks again responded, tying the game 2-2, just 58 seconds later.
"I felt we were controlling the game," Hussong said. "We just weren't executing as we needed to on defense."
Muschs scored her sixth goal of the season, converting a penalty stroke at 28:41 and the Broncs took a 3-2 lead into intermission. Muschs is now 4-4 on penalty strokes this season.
With less than eight minutes remaining in the game, Muschs passed the ball during a corner play with Ippolite scoring her fourth of the season to give Rider a two-goal lead and Penas used a rush from the midfield, converting a back handed shot just inside the right post for her team-leading 16th goal of the season for the final score with 3:12 left in the contest.
"Allison (Muschs) has come along so much," Hussong said. "Once she adjusted to the American style of game, she has really stepped up her play."
The 2011 NEC Offensive Player of the Year and 2010 NEC Rookie of the Year, Penas is sixth on Rider's all-time scoring list with 121 points (49g, 23a).
Freshman Joelle Prettyman (Newark, Del./St. Mark's) picked up her seventh win of the season, making two saves as Rider out-shot the Hawks 15-9.
The Broncs held a 23-5 penalty corner advantage.
Rider shares the NEC title with St. Francis (Pa.) with each team finishing 6-1 in the NEC. The Broncs defeated the Red Flash 2-1 on October 26 to win the tie-breaker.
The Northeast Conference playoffs will be November 2-3.
Rider is now 24-1 all-time at the lighted campus turf field which opened in the fall of 2010.
"When we play at home, we play with more confidence," Penas said. "We like our home 'turf' and will do everything we have to do to win."
"We knew a lot was on the line," said Hussong. "We've rebounded so well in the last couple of weeks and we are peaking at the right time. The team showed they really wanted the championship and they deserve it."
"We wanted to do this for the seniors," Penas said about clinching the NEC Title. "After we lost at Quinnipiac earlier in the season, we knew it would be tough to repeat but we came out strong and got the job done."
"The seniors know and understand the tradition that we have here," said Hussong. "They wanted to go out on top and they willed their teammates into playing their best field hockey."
The Broncs are the two-time defending NEC tournament champions, having defeated Monmouth twice, 1-0 in 2010 and 2-1 for the 2011 title.
Rider and Monmouth have now played 32 times with the Broncs holding a 22-7-3 advantage in the series that began in 1977. The last time Monmouth defeated Rider was in overtime in the semifinals of the 2009 NEC Championship Tournament.
Rider will face Quinnipiac in one semifinal with St. Francis (Pa.) and Monmouth squaring off in the other semifinal. The official schedule will be released by the Northeast Conference Monday.
The Bobcats handed Rider its only conference loss of the season, 3-2 in Connecticut on October 14.
"We out-shot Quinnipiac 22-4 and lost," Hussong remembered about the game against the Bobcats. "I demanded that everyone take a look at themselves and what they wanted out of this program. From then on, the seniors took over and everyone followed their lead."
Rider has won the 2001, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2011 and now the 2012 NEC regular season titles with the Broncs winning the NEC Championship in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2010 and 2011. Rider has advanced to the NEC Title game in 10 of the last 12 seasons.
"The playoffs are a dog fight," Hussong said. "We just have to be prepared, focused and ready to play."