The Quinnipiac University men’s soccer team reached limits nobody could have imagined in its 2013 season.
In its first year in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference, Quinnipiac finished the regular season as co-champions, then downed Monmouth in penalty kicks last Sunday afternoon to win the MAAC Championship and advance to the program’s first NCAA Tournament.
Tonight, however, going up against No. 10 University of Connecticut, the Bobcats season came to an end.Mamadou Doudo Diouf scored with just over nine minutes remaining, as he headed one past Quinnipiac goalkeeper Borja Angoitia and UConn went on the beat Quinnipiac 2-1 at Joseph J. Morrone Stadium.
“I thought the boys performed very well,” Quinnipiac head coach Eric Da Costa said. “Our guys today were special. We wanted to make sure we left everything out on the field tonight, and despite the score I thought we did that.”
Diouf was able to get a head on a cross pass from teammate Kareem Morad, and struck it just past Angoitia with 9:09 left. A celebration in front of the goal ensued, as Diouf ripped his shirt off and leaped into the home fans just to the left of the goal.
As the old adage goes, all good things must come to an end.
“It really could have gone either way,” Da Costa said. “The entire group showed a lot of character and a lot of poise.”
The first half was a stalemate, with UConn heading into the locker room with a 5-3 shot advantage.
One of UConn’s better chances came with 34:14 left in the first half. Jakob Nerwinski pushed the ball deep into Quinnipiac’s territory near-side, then cross it towards the goal. Angoitia was able to corral the ball, however, ending the threat.
The Bobcats had their chances, as well. James Doig was able to put a free-kick towards the goal on three occasions for the Bobcats, but Connecticut goalkeeper Andre Blake stood strong.
UConn threatened once again with just over 16 minutes left in the half. Nerwinski blasted a corner kick in towards the goal, and Nicholas Zuniga was able to get a head on it. The ball went just wide of the net, and Quinnipiac kept the game tied at zero.
In the beginning of the second half, UConn broke the tie. Only 5:30 into the half Nicholas Zuniga scored the goal for the Huskies, as he found the ball amidst a scrum in front of the net and put it in. George Fochive and Jakob Nerwinski were each credited with an assist.
Just minutes later UConn threatened once again. With 34:51 left in the second half Stevenson Hawkey was whistled for a foul in the box, giving UConn a penalty kick.
Angoitia was able to make a diving play to his left on the penalty kick, sprawling out and keeping the advantage at only one goal. UConn senior Mamadou Doudo Diouf took the shot.
“The previous penalties I’ve seen, he always goes to that side,” Angoitia said. “I knew that he waits for the keeper to move, so I decided to stay as late as possible, then the save was easy.”
“Making a save on that moment is crucial,” Da Costa said. “He did it on Friday, and he did it on Sunday, so we sort of expected it.”
With just over 20 minutes remaining in the game, Zuniga almost scored again. The sophomore blasted a shot off of the top of the crossbar, just inches from extending the lead to two goals.
Then, with 17:55 left in the game, the Bobcats scored.
It was Quinnipiac’s leading scorer Simon Hinde who came up with the goal. Blake came well off his line, and Hinde was able to handle the ball and put it past him to make things even.
“I stayed on my feet and kind of read the keeper,” Hinde said. “He went to the far post and I went inside. I was just happy to get the team on the board, and we deserved to level the game at the time.”
Hinde credited his positioning to Da Costa, who elected to move his leading goal scorer into a more attacking role down one goal.
“We made a switch there to put him in a more advanced position, hopefully to find him a gap or to find some space,” Da Costa said. “He put himself in a great position. He took advantage of it.”
Then, with just over nine minutes left, Diouf’s header gave the Huskies a 2-1 lead. UConn would hold on, eliminating Quinnipiac from the NCAA Tournament.
Shots for the game were 13-5 in the advantage of UConn. Angoitia made four saves for Quinnipiac.
The Huskies will take on No. 6 University of Maryland Baltimore Country on Sunday at 1 p.m.