Freshman forward Furtuna Velaj returned to her scoring ways Friday, as she and sophomore Meagan McLoughlin netted two goals apiece in a dominating 4-1 victory over Fairleigh Dickinson University.
The Bobcats (6-5-2) were coming off a five-game winless streak where they scored a total of three goals. Head coach Dave Clarke said the team has suffered without Velaj’s offense.
“Any team with her ability in the NEC is gonna struggle if she’s not scoring,” Clarke said. “We just needed a little luck.”
Velaj leads the NEC with 14 goals on the season and recorded her first assist on the season against the Knights, who dropped to 6-9-0 with the loss. In the past few games, teams have covered Velaj with multiple defenders. The Knights played a little differently.
“What they didn’t do, like the other teams did, was they didn’t put a player on me,” Velaj said. “In this game, I just tried to score goals and do my thing.”
The Bobcats opened the scoring with 26.59 remaining in the first period. Velaj passed the ball across the right side to a wide-open McLoughlin, who found the back of the net.
The Knights were faced with more difficulty two minutes later when backup goalie Megan MacKellar left the game with a leg injury. MacKellar was subbing for suspended starter Rachel Derrico. The Knights were forced to put in freshman Stephanie Tanzi, who had yet to record time in a college game.
With 23:42 left in the first period the Knights rallied around their fallen teammate and sophomore Lisa-Marie Curti tied the game, 1-1. Clarke said the injury was a slight disadvantage for the Bobcats.
“It gets the emotion on the FDU side,” Clarke said. “We lost concentration for a moment, but quickly got it back.”
Velaj provided the concentration with 16:46 left in the first. After beating a defender, Velaj took a shot from the left side into the net. The result was a goal, and with a 2-1 lead the Bobcats never looked back.
Quinnipiac came out firing in the second period, with Velaj and McLoughlin scoring in the first 15 minutes. McLoughlin attributed her scoring outburst to her change in position.
“I started up front with forward, and I usually play defense,” McLoughlin said. “We just went out there with the mentality that we had to win.”
Once the Bobcats secured a comfortable lead, Clarke was able to rest some of his starters, which he has not had much chance for lately.
“You never want to go into a game saying, ‘I only want to play 11 players,'” Clarke said. “The key for us is getting two goals ahead, and that can relax us.”
The Bobcats hosted Sacred Heart (1-14-3) on Sunday and came away with a 3-0 win. Velaj and McLoughlin each provided a goal in the effort. Quinnipiac improves to 7-5-2 overall and Velaj increases her goal total to 15. Their next game is this afternoon against the non-conference Bryant Bulldogs.