Women’s Soccer: A season full of accomplishment

By on December 9, 2009

Quinnipiac women’s soccer head coach Dave Clarke called the 2008 season a “frustration.” What a difference just one year makes, as the Bobcats turned 2009 into a season headlined by “accomplishment,” Clarke said.

Although the ultimate goal of reaching the NCAA Tournament was not met, the squad made it to the Northeast Conference playoffs for the first time since 2004, a great finish to the careers of a team made up of seven seniors.

“For the senior class to go three years not even making the tournament was very disappointing,” Clarke said. “But this season, we accomplished a lot of the goals that the players had set out, not necessarily just this year but four years ago. Obviously, there was one ultimate goal they didn’t accomplish, but that is the definition of success versus winning. We didn’t win but we were very successful.”

Coming off a season in which Quinnipiac missed the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, the Bobcats received contributions up and down the roster as they reached a new goal for future teams to strive for.

“We had a lot of very good players on our team this year,” said Bobcats senior captain defenseman Justine Lombardi. “Not that we didn’t in the past, but we just had a really deep bench. We would look over to the sideline and see certain players that you knew were good and actually could come in and make a difference in the game.”

The start of the season was not encouraging for the Bobcats, as they began their year 1-5-1. But finishing strong in conference play is what set this team apart. They finished 7-1-1 in their final nine NEC games.

Success in the NEC in previous years had been hard to come by for Quinnipiac, as it failed to win more than three games in conference.

“The last three years we were talking about how well we played against teams that had done well in the Big East and went to the NCAA Tournament,” Clarke said. “And this year, the flip side is that nobody cares that we went 1-5, everyone talks about the fact that we went 7-2-1 in the NEC.”

Much of the season’s success can be summed up in senior forward Lindsay Oliveri’s performance, who had gone three years without a goal. She netted two in 2009. Her second goal came on Senior Day, as the Bobcats beat Saint Francis (Pa.) 1-0. The goal ignited the entire Bobcat bench on their feet cheering.

“Everyone was so happy for her,” Lombardi said. “It demonstrated that keep working, don’t give up, your chance is going to come, and also that everyone was just so happy for her that she had accomplished what she did showed that we really do care about each other.”

Individual success was littered throughout the roster in 2009 for the Bobcats, as sophomore forward Furtuna Velaj backed up her strong freshman campaign with another impressive year, leading Quinnipiac with 11 goals and eight assists.

Freshman Jillian Strassner (four goals, three assists) and Shauna Edwards (two goals, two assists) and sophomore Kristina Del Mistro (three goals, two assists) all supported Velaj on the offensive end. Senior Hanne Walleck led a defensive unit that ranked fourth in the NEC in goals allowed with 24. Also standing out on the defensive end was freshman goalkeeper Biz Cook, who finished the year 7-2-1 in net while allowing only .99 goals per game.

At the end of each season, Clarke writes the date of next year’s NEC semifinal in red ink on the top of his whiteboard in his office.

“Success breathes success,” Clarke said. “You can’t win unless you make it first. So it is always a constant reminder and it goes at the bottom of the emails too, ’11/5/10.’ That’s the attitude, we can’t guarantee that we would win, but we want to be playing on that day.”

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