Two fall teams awaiting challengers

Matt Eisenberg

For the Quinnipiac field hockey team and the men’s soccer team, the tough part is just beginning.

Each team is undefeated in Northeast Conference play so far, but both teams are about to enter the challenging part of their conference schedules.

The field hockey team (8-5, 2-0 NEC) plays two games over the weekend at Monmouth and Rider, which are both tied for first place in the conference with Quinnipiac.

Despite playing games against nationally-ranked Boston College, Penn State and University of Maine earlier in the season, Rider and Monmouth have a combined 25-5 overall record, and the Bobcats did not fare well against either team last year.

Quinnipiac lost to the Rider Broncos and the Monmouth Hawks in consecutive games last year, 1-0 and 2-0 respectively. The Bobcats also lost to Rider in the conference semifinals, 4-2. The Broncos have won seven games in a row, a stretch where they have outscored their opponents 35-3.

“No matter what the score is in the game, we have a say in it, we have to stay strong, do what we have to do and we’ll be great,” leading scorer Jess Rusin said after the Bobcats’ 4-2 win against Saint Francis (Pa.) Sunday.

After playing five of its last six games at home, the men’s soccer team (5-4, 3-0) begins a four-game road trip that includes games against first-place Fairleigh Dickinson and defending NEC champion Monmouth.

“We want to continue our momentum and continue to improve as a team,” men’s soccer head coach Eric Da Costa said after the team’s 2-1 win over Robert Morris Sunday. “We’re going to take advantage of being 3-0, appreciate what that means and we’re in a good position now. It’s a reward for all the work we’ve been putting in.”

The pieces are falling in place for the Bobcats. Forward Philip Suprise has scored in the team’s past two games and was named the conference player of the week after scoring two goals and drawing a foul that led to the eventual game-winner in Sunday’s game.

“We’re not going to change (our style),” said Suprise, who has a team-high 10 points including four assists, and is second on the team with three goals. “We’ve been doing pretty well right now, no injuries, everyone’s playing their role, everyone’s playing pretty well, we’re putting goals away, so you can’t ask for more right now.”

Fairleigh Dickinson is unbeaten in its last five matches while Monmouth, which has an 8-3 overall record, has shut out its opponents in seven games.

It’s going to be a make-or-break part of the year for both teams. The field hockey team could propel itself into the No. 1 seed or boot itself from home-field contention. The men’s soccer team has a chance to separate itself from the lower-tier teams or be located in the middle of the standings.

It’s up to each team to define its season.