Lady Braves kick off quest to repeat championship
After a successful `00-’01 campaign, when the Quinnipiac women’s soccer team advanced to the NCAA first round playoffs, only to drop a heartbreaker to Harvard 2-1; the Lady Braves returned to action on a windy Saturday afternoon in Hamden, Conn. defeating annual powerhouse Holy Cross 4-3 in overtime.
Junior forward Molly Harrington scored her first career goal 1:05 into overtime, after sustaining a hault to her career with an injury, missing her sophomore year. After the score was tied at two a piece at the half, both teams had chances to score in the second half, until Holy Cross forward Liz Charnley scored at the 89:39 mark to snap a 2-2 tie and give the Lady Crusaders their first lead of the game.
The Braves remained strong as they stormed back when sophomore Jill Gregoire tallied her second career goal with 21 seconds left to play to force the game into overtime. Gregoire, a South Windsor native stated, “It took a lot of team heart and that’s what it came down to. With hard work and lots of determination we should go far.” Gregoire, like many of the younger players look promising to the team’s success.
Junior forward Elisa Goncalves scored one goal and assisted on two others to contribute to the Braves rally, giving the powerful and skillful South Windsor, Conn. native 36 career goals and 9 assists. Goncalves talent has not gone unnoticed as she received NEC player of the year and NEC tournament MVP honors as a sophomore.
The Braves are once again looking to capture the NEC regular season title, along with the NEC tournament, as they have high hopes for yet another NCAA appearance.
The Braves will be guided by third season coach Dave Clarke, a 1992 graduate of Central Connecticut State University. Clake stated that the goals of the team are the same as last year, “We want to qualify for the conference playoffs as soon as possible, win the conference championship, make it to the NCAA tournament and qualify for the second round.”
Indeed, the Lady Braves showed no signs of weakness in their home opener, as these goals seem more than realistic, especially with the depth and experience this year’s squad posses.
Quinnipiac returns three all-conference players, including Elisa Goncalves, junior forward Alison Jaquith, and Melissa Ganias, a transfer from UMass-Amherst. Clarke comments on Ganias, “Melissa can establish herself as one of the best players in the conference now that she has settled in after her transfer from UMass.”
Ganias, a native of Wallingford wasted no time in making a name for herself in the NEC, assisting on four goals in her first season as a stellar defender for the Braves.
When asked about how Ganias thinks this season will turn out for the Braves, the smiling accounting major stated, “Our team pulled through today against Holy Cross and worked hard together. We have a lot of things to work on, but we have a promising future.”
In addition to Ganias, whose older sister decided to help assist the Braves in their optimistic campaign, junior Alison Jaquith of Spencer, Mass. also brings back experience to the team. Jaquith scored Quinnipiac’s lone goal in a 2-1 loss to the Crimson Tide in their first round NCAA loss.
Jaquith has tallied 19 goals and four assists in her two successful seasons wearing blue and gold; Coach Clarke expects a lot from the dangerous and speedy striker.
Other players looking to make an impact for the Braves are seniors Kristin Rathbone, Chandra Manuelpillai, and Linnea Lampe, sophomores Megan Kennedy and Jill Gregoire, juniors Molly Harrington and Lauren Carmody, and last but not least with this year’s squad, incoming talented freshmen Stephanie Cintron and Jamie Ahearn. Megan Kennedy returns to cap a powerful front line as she finished second, only to Goncalves, on the team last year in goals (7) and points (15) as a freshman.
Quinnipiac’s schedule also includes perennial national powerhouses Seton Hall and Rutgers. Finally, the Braves look to make the best of the season using their two best weapons: talent and experience. Both play a key role in helping the Braves accomplish their goals.
Coach Clarke finishes by stating that he was happy with the way preseason training went, “Every player on the roster came in fit and the work rate and commitment for the past two weeks has been tremendous. I cannot ask any more of the players right now. Hopefully all the hard work now translates into success on the field and we to reap the benefits of a strong preseason.”
If Coach Clarke’s only worries are about work rate and commitment, then he will get his goodnight’s sleep for the rest of the season, because the Braves show more than enough for their work ethic and over-commit when it’s game time.