NEC Champions !!!
College Field Hockey
Rider University 3, Monmouth University 2
Northeast Conference Championship Game
LAWRENCEVILLE--Led by two goals and an assist from junior Sandra Penas (Barcelona, Spain), the Rider University field hockey team defeated Monmouth University 3-2 on Saturday afternoon at Ben Cohen Field to capture the 2012 Northeast Conference Championship.
The title is the third in a row for Rider (15-5).
"With what we lost to graduation from 2011, this was a very satisfying win," said head coach Lori Hussong. "To see how this team developed and bounced back from adversity during the season, it is gratifying to see the players rewarded for their hard work. I couldn't be more proud."
With Rider trailing 2-1 and less than 12 minutes on the clock, Penas converted a penalty corner with sophomore Eefje Kok (Berkel Enschot, Netherlands) and Rachel Ippolite (Woolwich Twp./Kingsway Regional) picking up the assists with 11:23 remaining, tying the game 2-2.
Penas then used a back handed shot from the top of the circle for her league-leading 19th goal of the season, giving the Broncs a 3-2 lead with 7:12 left in the game.
"Sandra's been playing unbelievably the last couple of weeks and she knows that when we need somebody she's the go-to player for us," said Hussong. "She has come through for us in many, many games this year and in her entire career. Today, Sandra showed the NEC the type of player that she is."
Penas is now third on Rider's all-time scoring list with 131 points (53g, 25a).
Penas assisted on Rider's first goal of the game, with freshman Allison Muschs (Linkebeek, Belgium) scoring her eighth of the season as the Broncs took a 1-0 lead 28:58 into the game and Rider led by one at the half.
Monmouth (8-13) came out of the intermission on fire, scoring back to back goals 6:23 apart in the 42nd and 48th minutes to take a 2-1 lead.
"They (Monmouth) had the momentum going in their direction after they scored the go ahead goal and we knew that we had to change up a couple of things," Hussong said. "Homero (assistant coach Homero Pardi) suggested we move 'Mar' (Marlaine Schneider) out to right wing because we didn't have anybody in the circle for us that were generating any type of offense other than Sandra. We went to a four-man line and that really helped us keep the pressure on them. We never stopped fighting but credit to Monmouth as well, they worked hard."
Rider out-shot the Hawks 18-12 and the Broncs held a 17-11 penalty corner advantage.
Freshman Joelle Prettyman (Newark, Del./St. Mark's) made four saves to pick up her ninth win of the season.
This is the third season in a row that Rider and Monmouth have met for the NEC Title with the Broncs winning 1-0 in 2010 and 2-1 in 2011, both games in Lawrenceville.
Rider and Monmouth have now played 33 times with the Broncs holding a 23-7-3 advantage in the series that began in 1977.
Rider is now 26-1 all-time at the lighted campus turf field which opened in the fall of 2010.
The Broncs have won the 2001, 2003, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012 NEC regular season titles.
This is Rider's sixth NEC championship having also won in 2000, 2002, 2004, 2010 and 2011. The Broncs have appeared in 11 of the last 13 NEC championship games.
"I'm really proud of this group," said Hussong. "We lost so much to graduation and arguably the best player to ever play in the NEC in Virginia Egusquiza and we didn't really know what our future was going to hold. Going into the season, we probably thought it was going to be a rebuilding year for us but these kids came together at the right time and believed in themselves and didn't want to be the team that broke the tradition of playoff excellence that is here at Rider."
"It's the third year in a row and I've never lost in this tournament," Penas said. "Today was a really hard game. Every year it takes a lot of effort. You can't take it (winning) for granted; it's never easy."
Rider will travel to the Atlantic 10 champion UMass for an NCAA Play-In game on Tuesday.
"We know we have a mountain to climb when we get to the play-in game," Hussong said. "We are playing against programs that are the elite in the country but anything can happen in tournament time. If we work hard."
"We are the underdog and it's going to be a hard game," Penas said about the trip to UMass. "We know we need to play our best if we want to win the game."
This is the third season in a row that Rider has advanced to the NCAA-Play-In round. In 2010, Rider lost at the University at Albany 2-1 and in 2011, the Broncs lost at Princeton 1-0 in double overtime.