The Quinnipiac men’s soccer team learned Sunday afternoon that lightning doesn’t strike twice. Controlling their own Northeast Conference playoff destiny after Friday’s scoreless tie against Monmouth, the Bobcats (10-4-4, 5-2-2 NEC) defeated Mount St. Mary’s (9-9, 5-4 NEC) 3-0 to clinch a playoff berth.
Trying to avenge last season’s disappointment – the Bobcats missed the playoffs by a single point – senior Graciano Brito scored in the 20th minute to set the tone for Quinnipiac’s offense. He received a pass from Johan Karlhagen and beat a defender before slipping a shot past Mount St. Mary’s goalkeeper Chris Davis. The goal was Brito’s 17th of the season.
Brito, who took part in the pregame Senior Day ceremonies, will play in the NEC playoffs for the first time in his Quinnipiac career.
“It’s great for me. It’s an amazing feeling,” he said. “I’m just glad to win it.”
Quinnipiac added another goal 14 minutes later when Durval Pereira shot the ball over the goalkeeper into the back left corner of the goal for his sixth goal of the season. The Bobcats would hold the 2-0 lead going into halftime.
After being held scoreless by Monmouth two days earlier, Quinnipiac head coach Eric Da Costa said it didn’t matter when the goals were scored, just as long as they were able to score and eventually come out on top.
“It was important for us to have a good result, and it was important for us to win the game,” he said. “We just wanted to make sure that at the end of the day when the 90 minutes ticked off the clock, we had more goals than they did.”
The Bobcats, behind goalkeeper Freddy Hall, were able to make the early lead stand up. Hall made eight saves – five coming in the second half – for his third straight shutout. Hall said the defense was “amazing” and that the team played hard because they remembered what happened last year.
“We went to Mount St. Mary’s last season and I felt we got cheated,” he said. “Coming back here, we had a point to prove.”
And prove it they did. Brito scored his second goal of the game late in the second half, beating the goalkeeper to the far post to set the Quinnipiac Division I scoring record. He finished the regular season with 18 goals and 39 points. Despite scoring twice today, Brito said it was an entire team effort.
“I have to say thanks to my teammates,” he said. “They are the ones who work hard all game, and just because I scored the two goals doesn’t mean that I’m the hero.”
To complement the offensive production, Quinnipiac was also physical from the beginning of the game, committing 16 fouls and receiving three yellow cards in the first half. Later in the game, defender Tolle Staffanson was given a red card for a takedown in the 86th minute, meaning he will not be eligible in the team’s playoff opener on Friday.
The Bobcats finish the regular season in third place with a conference record of 5-2-2 and 17 points. They will take on the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights at Monmouth University next Friday in the NEC semifinal game. When the Knights and Bobcats played during the regular season, the Knights beat the Bobcats in Hamden by a score of 2-0.
“We expect to win the NEC championship,” Da Costa said. “It’s been our goal since we walked in back in August and it’s been our goal since we missed it by a point last year.”
“This is a new team, it’s a new year,” Da Costa said. “We had new life, we had new energy and new players come in. This is a clean slate for us and we’re just glad that we’re heading into the final four of the NEC.”