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We are the champions
Simon Hinde couldn’t put the hours he spent between the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship and the NCAA Selection Show into words.
On Sunday afternoon at Lessing Field in Fairfield, the Bobcats took home their first MAAC Championship, defeating Monmouth in penalty kicks, 4-3.
When MAAC Goalkeeper of the Year Borja Angoitia made the game-winning save, Hinde said his initial feeling was jubilation.
“I was ecstatic,” Hinde said. “I couldn’t even put words together.”
Less than a day later, Hinde and the rest of the team’s personnel learned they would be playing UConn Thursday night in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
“So happy for the team, the coaches, and the school,” Hinde said. “Everything the team worked for from day one, they can’t take it off us now. We got it forever.”
Quinnipiac was forced to play to penalty kicks in both the semifinal and final games against Iona and Monmouth. Last Friday, the Bobcats led Iona up until the 86th minute, when the Gaels knotted the game at 1. Quinnipiac would eventually top Iona in eight rounds of penalty kicks, 7-6.
Both nights, the game’s fate rested in Angoitia’s hands. Last year, Quinnipiac’s season ended via penalty kicks, losing to Saint Francis (Pa.) in the Northeast Conference semifinals. For Angoitia, the junior would need to erase the memories from last season to earn a win.
Though he let past nine penalty kicks, Angoitia made the saves when it counted, also drilling two of his own from the line.
“He’s been clutch for us all year,” Quinnipiac head coach Eric Da Costa said, his eyes glossy. “When that fifth kick came, and we knew a save would put us through, I think everyone was quietly confident that he would come through at that moment.”
Following the game-winning stop, the team was presented with the MAAC Championship trophy, hoisting it to the delight of the Bobcats fans remaining in the crowd.
“It’s an overwhelming type of excitement and joy,” Da Costa said. “I’ve been working on this for nine years, getting to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in our program’s history; it’s a feeling that you always imagine.”
Angoitia said the 24 hours between Sunday’s championship and Monday’s selection show have been some to remember. Sunday evening, the team went out for dinner together, also reflecting on how far they’ve come.
“It’s been the best 24 hours I’ve ever had at this campus,” Angoitia said. “[Sunday] we were all so excited for the game. After the game, it’s been nonstop until right now.”
With the MAAC Championship captured, the Bobcats will look towards their next matchup; round one of the NCAA Tournament tomorrow night at UConn. Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.
For Angoitia and the rest of the team however, there is still work to be done.
“Obviously, I’d say to win,” Angoitia said on what he would like to accomplish at the tournament. “Definitely to give everything we have, no regrets. If we keep putting the performances, I’m very confident we make it very far.”