A new year, another preseason for fall sports. This time, however, Quinnipiac University will be competing in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.
Quinnipiac men’s soccer head coach Eric Da Costa sees no reason why his team’s mentality should change. As a new season approaches, so does the challenge of discovering what the team is made of.
“We are very much a team still searching for its identity,” Da Costa said. “We have always taken the approach of preseason as being a six-week process.”
The team graduated seven seniors last year, including 2012 team-leading scorer, Philip Suprise.
“Every year you lose important and key players,” Da Costa said. “You lose high character guys or good leaders and great teammates; those are immeasurable losses.”
Captains Simon Hinde and Brandon Strain-Goode are expected to take over leadership responsibilities in 2013. Hinde, who came in as a transfer, made an “immediate impact,” according to Da Costa, when he arrived. Strain-Goode has been manning the defense ever since his arrival as a freshman.
“We are really going to look towards our captains and our more experienced players,” Da Costa said. “They’re the players with the best leadership and we’re really going to turn to them in times of need.”
The experience that will help tremendously can also be found in between the goalposts. Borja Angoitia, now a junior, has been in net for the Bobcats since he was a freshman. Named to the 2013 College Sports Madness MAAC Preseason All-Conference First Team, the spotlight now is on the goalkeeper, and Da Costa is confident he will rise to those expectations.
“We are all really proud of him,” Da Costa said. “Borja has been a key member of the team since he walked in as a freshman. He’s been that cornerstone of our team, that consistent rock, and he has improved over the course of his three seasons and we are hoping this season is his best yet.”
Experience, though, is not a concern for this team. Even the four new freshmen and two transfers have shown tremendous potential.
“They’ve all done really well,” Da Costa said. “They’ve all impressed and they will all be competing for an important role on the team.”
Being in a new conference comes with its own set of challenges. Unfamiliarity of opponents, being the most obvious, is not the main concern.
“We need to travel well,” Da Costa said. “That’s going to be key for us. We’ve been in the NEC (Northeast Conference) for 15 years so players start to get accustomed to the different campuses, different facilities, and the travel time to certain venues and certain road games. It becomes a bit of a routine over the course of your four years.”
To help assist the players to the new scenery, Da Costa knows he and his staff must “do a good job logistically” helping the players “acclimate and adjust.” At the same time, the players must remain “highly focused and concentrated on every game.”
“There are going to be a lot of unknowns,” Da Costa said. “We need to remain focused.”
Last season, Quinnipiac finished first in the NEC, later making the tournament semifinals, when the Bobcats were handed an overtime loss in penalty kicks. Played at a neutral site due to weather, Da Costa noted the team was not able to capitalize on the privileges that came with their success.
“Winning the regular season conference championship comes with its benefits and unfortunately we weren’t able to really reap the benefits of any of them,” Da Costa said.
Being handed such a bitter defeat, the 14 returners certainly feel they have some unfinished business to take care of.
“Most of the team, myself included wishes we were back in the NEC to give it another shot,” Da Costa said. “But we’re excited about the MAAC, we’re excited about the new challenges, and we’re excited about the fact that this team is going to be the first team to ever compete in the MAAC. We can write our own history with a clean slate.”