Quinnipiac goalkeeper Borja Angoitia walked over to the sideline at the end of the second overtime period. The game was headed to penalty kicks, the winner of which would capture the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference Championship crown and head to the NCAA Division I Tournament.
Angoitia sat down alone on the bench while his teammates gathered on the field. He began to whistle to himself in a nonchalant manner, looking down toward the wet ground.
Quinnipiac head coach Eric Da Costa walked over to Angoitia and informed the junior he would again take the first penalty kick in addition to playing in net, just as he had done in Friday night’s semifinal game. Angoitia slightly nodded, his eyes still peering towards the wet ground, all while he continued to whistle.
When it came time to start penalty kicks, Angoitia trotted out onto the field. He lined up for Quinnipiac’s first kick, and struck the ball past Monmouth goalkeeper Eric Klenofsky. Four rounds later, Angoitia made a diving save to his left off of a John Egan shot, securing a victory and a MAAC Championship for the Bobcats.
“The emotions right now are between joy and relief,” Da Costa said. “We’ve been doing this for nine years, and it slipped out of our grasp a couple of times. To be able to see our guys, and how ecstatic they are, it’s beyond measure and beyond words.”
With the win, Quinnipiac is headed to its first NCAA Division I Tournament in program history. Prior to tonight’s contest the Bobcats had not beaten Monmouth in 10 games, their last win against the Hawks coming in 2004.
“It’s unbelievable,” Angoitia said. “We’ve always had confidence as a team, but to go this far and win and be heading to the NCAA Tournament is just something we’ve never experienced before. It feels amazing.”
Quinnipiac had not beaten Monmouth in the last 10 meetings prior to Sunday afternoon’s win over the No. 1 seed, going 12-3-2 in its history against the Hawks.
“I told coach [Da Costa] yesterday that I lost twice to Monmouth already, and that the third time was a charm,” Quinnipiac co-captain Simon Hinde said. “When I came to America I learned quickly that Monmouth was the team to beat, and I just can’t stop smiling.”
Hinde says sharing this win with his coach makes it worth more than anything he has every experienced.
“He’s built this program up and had faith in playing real football,” Hinde said. We’ve had faith in him, he’s created a great program, and I’m very happy for him.”
The first half featured minimal scoring opportunities for both teams. Monmouth had two free kick chances, but senior Paco Navarro couldn’t capitalize on either. The first came almost 15 minutes into action, and Navarro lined the kick straight at Angoitia. The second chance came with under ten minutes left in the half, but it was lined wide left of the goal.
Quinnipiac’s Tobi Esche, the last line of defense many times, stood strong throughout the half.
“[The defense has] been perfect all season, that’s why the team went so far,” Angoitia said. “We are a team based on defense and we get clutch scoring hear and there, and today was much of the same. Great team win.”
The Bobcats best scoring chance of the half came with just over 17 minutes remaining. Machel Baker got into Monmouth territory, but was turned away by Matt Jeffery, MAAC Defensive Player of the Year.
Steven Hawkey also got a shot on net with 12 minutes left, but the shot was saved by Klenofsky.
The second half featured much of the same, both teams strong in their own end.
The best scoring threat came from Quinnipiac’s Machel Baker with 10:57 left. Baker found the ball just outside of the box, spun and struck the ball towards Klenofsky in net. The shot went just wide right, though.
It was the best chance the Bobcats had gotten all day, and brought the Quinnipiac crowd on the far side to its feet.
“Our boys knew how much [the game] meant, and how big this game was,” Da Costa said.
”We would not be intimidated. As they game progressed we started to show how technical we are, and how good of a team we are.”
With just under ten minutes left in regulation, it was Monmouth’s turn to nearly end it. Derek Luke struck the ball towards the Quinnipiac net from just outside of the box, but Angoitia made a diving save high and to his right, keeping Quinnipiac’s season alive.
“He’s the biggest guy out on the field today. He was called upon late in the second half to make that safe, and he came through again,” Da Costa said of his goalkeeper.
Monmouth and Quinnipiac then played two scoreless overtime periods, both teams with minimal chances. The game would be decided by penalty kicks, the same way both Quinnipiac and Monmouth had gotten to the championship game itself.
Angoitia and captain Simon Hinde started it off strong for the Bobcats, each scoring on their chance. Brandon Strain-Goode then missed, and Monmouth’s Joseph Schmid tied things up at two goals apiece through three rounds. Toby Esche then found the back of the net with his scoring chance, followed by a Monmouth conversion as well.
Simon Brossier was next up for Quinnipiac. He stuck the ball to the left side, just out of the reach of Klenofsy. Angoitia then made another momentous save, his largest of the season.
“The guy told me with the run-up,” Angoitia said. “He knew if he missed it was over, and he gave me a telegraph telling me he was going across and I was able to save it.”