Men’s soccer falls to Saint Francis (Pa.) in the NEC Tournament

Ian McCracken

Students at West Haven High School on Friday witnessed two teams’ entire seasons come down to penalty kicks. In the end, No. 4 Saint Francis (Pa.), who lost to no. 1 Quinnipiac 2-0 on October 26, pulled off the upset, ending the Bobcats’ historic season.

It took little time for the Red Flash to find the net when a minute and a half in freshman defender Erik Panzer played a soft pass which was intercepted by Ryan Byers of SFU who settled it, took a touch, and blasted a shot to the top left corner putting his team up 1-0

The top ranked team found the equalizer in the second half when junior Simon Hinde played a beautiful lead pass to senior Philip Suprise who split the defense and placed a shot past the keeper, Daniel Valcicak, to the bottom left making it 1-1.

The goal that got past the winning team’s goalie does not give justice to the day he had. Quinnipiac outshot its opponent 17-6, putting nine on net. Valcicak made eight saves in the game, but most of them came in the second half and OT periods which provided the momentum he needed for penalty kicks.

During the shootout, Suprise missed the first penalty kick for the Bobcats, while the Red Flash made their first three. Stevenson Hawkey made the second shot giving the Bobcats their first point in the shootout.

Ryan Malki then went for the Bobcats and was denied by Valcicak. Robbie McLarney and Brandon Strain-Goode made their final shots for Quinnipiac, but the Red Flash sealed the win when Nick Kolarac converted on his shot.

The Bobcats also took more than three times as many corner kicks, 10-3, as Saint Francis.

There were a couple uncontrollable themes for this game, the first being the location change affecting play. Quinnipiac earned the privilege of hosting the tournament for their first place finish in the NEC, but with the snowstorm the team moved to a narrower turf field, which Quinnipiac head coach Eric Da Costa said was a test of “psychological warfare,” but saw it as “a little bit of a letdown” and “an inconvenience” that “took a little bit of a toll” on his team’s play.

The wind was the other intangible that affected the game. Both goals were scored when the wind was in favor of each team. Da Costa said, “We knew it was going to be windy here…but there’s no other real way to prepare for it.” Senior Philip Suprise, also on the same topic, said, Tthe wind was a huge factor…it really changed up the tactics. It really leveled out the game.”

Both head coach and captain summed up the season as “historic,” and indeed it was. Da Costa noted that program had “never been in this position” before in the program’s “relatively young” history. Suprise, while noting this season has created a legacy, felt the more important legacy is “the memories you make out of soccer with the team.” As for penalty kicks being the decision, Da Costa noted “It’s unfortunate that penalty kicks is what decides it.” Suprise added he was mad that it came to that and he could not connect on his late game chances.

As Da Costa was leaving the field, he was embraced by his children and wife before he could leave the gate. After all, concerning his team, he said if they remember anything about that day is that he was “proud of them;” his family felt the same way.