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Quinnipiac women’s soccer eliminated from the MAAC Tournament in the semifinals
For head coach Dave Clarke, the loss sums up an underwhelming postseason run following last year’s appearance in the MAAC Championship game vs. Monmouth.
“[We’re] disappointed. [The playoffs] didn’t end the way we had hoped,” Clarke said. “We fully expected to be playing in the final. Everything worked out except the semifinal [game].”
The semifinal loss to Manhattan came two days after a convincing quarterfinal win vs. Rider by a final score of 3-1.
The MAAC Tournament was held in Lake Buena Vista, Florida at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex, though for the Bobcats, the tournament was no time for vacation and amusement parks.
As the No. 3 seed, the team had a bye in the first round of the playoffs, which gave the players a week to prepare for its quarterfinal opponent.
The Bobcats were able to contain Rider’s key players during the match, which was imperative to the game plan, according to Clarke.
“One of Rider’s key players was [midfielder] Sam Picinich… We tried to stifle her and get her to move out of position,” Clarke said. “And for (Rider forward) Michelle Iacono, everything was coming on her right foot, so we doubled up and made her go left, I don’t think she got a shot off in the game … that took away their two best players.”
In particular, Clarke singled out defender Hannah Reiter’s performance as she was the one to fully implemented the defensive game plan.
“Reiter was the player of the game,” Clarke said. “(Her) role was key.”
But it was not just the defensive tactics that the Bobcats were able to exploit. They also displayed their offensive tools with three goals on the match. Senior forward Nadya Gill scored two goals off of slick shots. In the 82nd minute, junior forward Al Pelletier put the then 2-1 game out of reach with a clutch goal.
The team only had one day in between matches to prepare for the semifinal game, and distraction in Disney was not an option.
“As soon as they step off the field, the game is over,” Clarke said. “[We] are laying an expectation to win, which creates a different mentality … [You] get ready for the semifinal [by] practicing the next day, recovery, eating right, sleeping and rest.”
Regardless of playing Manhattan to a draw just 13 days earlier, the Bobcats were caught off guard in the opening of the match. Manhattan scored two consecutive goals within the first 10 minutes and the Bobcats never recovered.
Clarke said there was not much to stop them, in defense of sophomore goalkeeper Olivia Myszewski.
“If you look at the goals, we can say we conceded three, but the first one we gave away on the halfway line [the Manhattan] and player ran 50 yards [to score],” Clarke said. “The second [goal] was a corner and it took three deflections and you can’t make stuff like that up … it’s just, how do you plan for that? You don’t.”
Even though the Bobcats came roaring back in the second half with a score at the 72-minute mark by junior midfielder Madison Borowiec, it was not enough to comeback from a three-firsthalf-goal deficit.
Manhattan went on to the Championship game, in which it fell to the defending champions Monmouth, 5-1.
Nevertheless, Clarke was proud of his team, despite falling short on season expectations of reaching the final round.
“The team showed character,” Clarke said. “It’s a test of character. How do you respond? Do you give up or do you fight? [The team] didn’t give up, they played well, and they dominated the second half.”
Quinnipiac had a regular season in which it made new ground.
The team celebrated the opening of a new stadium this season, the Quinnipiac Soccer Stadium, which was completed right before the start of the season.
On the new pitch, the Bobcats also took on an ACC opponent for the first time in school history in their 3-1 loss against the Miami Hurricanes on Sept. 3.
“It was a good test, the key for that [game] was not getting hammered. If we had lost heavier, that was the expectation,” Clarke said. “We definitely stepped up [against Miami], it was used as a challenge; if you want to play a team like [Miami] then you’ve got to show that you belong.”
Just a few weeks later on Sept. 16, the Bobcats broke their previous single game scoring record of nine goals, by scoring 11 goals in their 11-0 win vs. Saint Peter’s.
According to Clarke, the story of how the Bobcats put up 11 goals against St. Peter’s lies in their previous three matches. Those games came against high-level competition of Miami, Dartmouth and Harvard respectively.
“You’ve got to look at in the context of the level of the opposition,” Clarke said. “At one point, Harvard was number one in the region…Dartmouth is always a perennial top 25-40 program, and Miami is in the ACC. The culmination [for us] was the performance against Saint Peter’s. It was [after] having our three hardest games.”
Another achievement for the Bobcats came in a 4-0 win versus Niagara late in the season on Oct. 14. Clarke said that the Niagara game was the turning point of the season for the Bobcats, with only two games left in the regular season. It was the first time the Bobcats had beaten Niagara since joining the MAAC in 2013.
All told, the Bobcats made progress this season with these regular season accomplishments. But the next step for Clarke is to have the team perform when it counts the most, in the postseason.
With this season in the books Clarke is confident that the upcoming junior class will pick up where the graduating seniors left off.
“In the [graduating seniors’] freshman [season] we talked about resetting the program,” Clarke stated. “They’ve helped rebuild the program and helped us get back to where we wanted to be. Looking forward to next year, the core group of juniors, that’s where the experience of the games will come in.”
The Bobcats will prepare for next season’s challenges by focusing on fitness and conditioning as well as individual technical skills in the offseason, according to Clarke.