Bulldogs claw way past Bobcats, 2-0

Maxx McNall

Hopefully next time for the Bobcats, a 10th time is a charm.

Quinnipiac came into Tuesday night’s women’s soccer showdown against Yale at Reese Stadium in New Haven winless in eight attempts all-time. Despite a strong effort, the Bobcats (0-3-1) couldn’t break through and came away on the losing end, 2-0.

The Bobcat’s success this season has nearly mirrored that of last year where they started 0-4 in their first four games. They went on to finish 7-7-4 overall, and 5-2-3 in the Northeast Conference in 2010, securing the three seed in the NEC tournament. Quinnipiac head coach Dave Clarke hopes the tough competition early in the season will pay dividends come conference play.

“It was our best performance of the season collectively,” Clarke said. “We could get a schedule where we would be 4-0 with our players but it wouldn’t get us ready for the NEC. Yale is going to be better than any team in the NEC this year, they’re built to be an NCAA team that plays the North Carolinas and the Notre Dames. But for the most part we matched them in terms of possession and it was the first time we came here and really felt that we weren’t out of the game.”

The Bulldogs (2-2-2), playing in their third game in five days, didn’t show any signs of slowing down as they put pressure on the Bobcats from the opening whistle. Yale midfielder Enma Mullo ignited the offense early on as she sent streaking passes into the box that barely missed forwards Kristen Forster and Meredith Speck on separate occasions, just minutes apart.

Quinnipiac countered with what nearly was the first goal of the game. Senior forward Furtuna Velaj possessed the ball on the left side of the midfield. She beat her defender one-on-one and moved around another Bulldog to position her crossing pass right to the left leg of freshman forward Crystal Burns. Her line drive shot beat the goalkeeper but a Yale defender came in and sent the ball back out of the box to deny a sure goal for the Bobcats.

The dangerous Yale offensive attack was supported by a solid defense throughout, and the defensive play of Torrey Leroy helped lead to the first Bulldog goal. Leroy, playing on the back line, anticipated a pass to Velaj and stole the ball at midfield. She quickly fed Mullo with a pass and she took off up the field, ultimately finding Melissa Gavin at the left corner of the goalie box. The left legged shot from Gavin was buried into the upper right corner of the goal for her second on the season at 35:34 in the first half.

The two teams entered halftime with a 1-0 score, but not before Quinnipiac senior goalkeeper Jill Kelley made a diving save to her left that denied a breakaway attempt from Gavin. Her six saves on the night kept the Bobcats in the game and came at opportune times for the Bulldogs.

“I think Jill is the best goalkeeper in the league,” Clarke said. “Today the two goals were special in terms of the finishes and that’s the type of goal she gives up. What I want for her is to win a game one-nill where she makes that save so that she can always turn around and say, ‘Yeah we won the game but you owe Jill.’ She keeps us in the game and today she did just that.”

In the second half, Gavin was denied twice on very decent looks at the net. Kelly dove to her left to deny a Gavin shot headed for the right corner of the goal and later jumped and deflected another Gavin up and over the crossbar to keep the deficit at one.

Yale added an insurance goal at the 80:05 mark in the second half. Mullo caused a Quinnipiac turnover and after a Bulldog throw in, Mary Kubiuk possessed in the corner before beating her defender down the end line and crossing to Frannie Coxe. Her shot was then knocked past Kelly for her first career goal.

For the Bobcats, it was their third straight scoreless game and through four games the only player to score has been Velaj (two goals against Canisius). The play of the offense will be a focus moving forward as Quinnipiac will be playing its next two at home starting with Lehigh on Friday and Holy Cross on Sunday.