Field hockey fails to complete comeback at Rider

Kristian Stefanides

The Villanova field hockey team (3-6) fell to the Rider Broncs (4-5) in Lawrenceville Township, N.J., on Sunday, 3-1. 

Just 9:17 into the first half, Rider got on the scoreboard as freshman midfielder Allison Baligian tipped home a shot from freshman forward Shannon Hughes past VU starting goalkeeper freshman Jordyn Clipstone. 

The Wildcats fought back, however. Less than two minutes later, Villanova scored the equalizer when senior back Abigail Freitag capitalized on a corner opportunity, notching her fourth goal of the season with an assist by freshman midfielder Francesca Bello. 

For the rest of the first half, both teams battled defensively. 

It was either team’s game as the Wildcats and Broncs headed into halftime deadlocked at one.

It would be Rider, however, that would take control of the match in the second half. 

Sophomore starting midfielder Kristen Mericle felt that Villanova was using the field to its advantage offensively, but unfortunately, allowed Rider to capitalize on their mistakes. 

“We had great field vision and did a nice job finding the passing lanes, but we made some unforced errors in maintaining possession, and unfortunately, they capitalized on our mistakes,” said Mericle. 

The Broncs took advantage of Villanova’s mistakes when Rider broke the tie as senior midfielder Laura McCormick scored an unassisted goal off of a rebound for her second of the season. 

The home team gained a 2-1 edge ten minutes into the second half.

With eight minutes remaining in the contest, sophomore forward Carlie Spaeder used her speed to her advantage with a 40-yard run down the pitch for an unassisted goal, giving Rider a two-goal lead and some breathing room. 

Searching for a goal, Villanova took a timeout after Rider’s third tally in hopes of bringing the score within one. 

Villanova registered its final shot of the game by junior forward Kayla Kenney with three minutes left in the second half, but Rider freshman goalkeeper Hannah Isaacs made the save, her sixth of the game.

Villanova registered nine shots in total, including seven on target, two of which were by senior midfielder Jessica Swoboda. 

The senior co-captain currently leads the team with 29 shots in Villanova’s nine games this season.

Swoboda, along with Bello and Freitag, have a team-high four goals apiece. 

Freitag and Bello are also atop the team leaderboard in points with 12 and 10, respectively.

Despite Sunday’s loss to the Broncs, the Wildcats are confident and ready for their first of five Big East matches beginning on Fri., Oct. 3 against Old Dominion in Norfolk, Virginia. 

Mericle and the team are looking forward to their first conference matchup against the Big Blue. 

The team feels its workouts and practices have prepared them and they are ready to put in the hard work before the game.

“We are really excited for our first Big East game of the season this Friday at Old Dominion,” Mericle said. “We have been working really hard on making crucial changes and focusing on the little details. Our strength and conditioning work with Coach Teefy has definitely been very beneficial to our game. We are ready to use Old Dominion’s AstroTurf to our advantage and get them on their toes from the first whistle.”

And with less than one week left to prepare for the big match-up on the road, the Wildcats are keeping a positive attitude and are working on every aspect of their game to get the big result on Friday.

“We are making it a focus this week to establish more consistency and to approach every practice and game with confidence and poise,” Mericle said. 

“We are ready for a strong week of practice in anticipation for Friday’s game. Our possession game and quick decision-making skills need to be a focus this week. We are ready to go into Friday’s game with positive attitudes and a sense of urgency. We are really looking forward to showing our pride for Villanova and the Big East Conference in Virginia this weekend.”

After the Wildcats’ weekend in Virginia, the squad will then return home to face Monmouth on Sun., Oct. 5 at 5:30 p.m. at Villanova Stadium.   

Following this weekend’s home game, the ’Cats will go on a two-game road trip to face Temple and St. Francis.