The only experience Quinnipiac men’s soccer has had in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference is a No. 1 finish in the regular season.
The Bobcats have done that in their first two seasons in the conference, which gives them reason to set sights on another promising year.
And though the team won its first MAAC Championship in 2013, the 2014 campaign ended in a 3-1 loss to Fairfield at home in the MAAC Semifinal.
Quinnipiac head coach Eric Da Costa said last season isn’t viewed as a failure, however, as it continued to build the program’s foundation and get one step closer to the next level.
“We want to put trophies on the shelves,” Da Costa said. “Our expectations are always high. We want to finish in the top four, compete for the regular season championship, get ourselves through the MAAC tournament, ultimately winning it, and advance to the NCAA tournament.”
Quinnipiac, however, will have to do so without former MAAC Goalkeeper of the Year Borja Angoitia, who graduated last year.
“Replacing players is easy, but replacing people is the hard part,” Da Costa said. “Borja was a leader and an important player in our program, but we found our goalkeeper going forward and we have the utmost confidence in him.”
Da Costa is referring to Triston Henry, the junior transfer from the University of Connecticut who joined the Bobcats in January. Henry played two seasons at Herkimer County Community College, leading the school to back-to-back National Junior College Athletic Association championships.
“Triston is his own goalkeeper with his own skillset,” Da Costa said. “We’re expecting big things from him.”
With the goalkeeper situation settled – and the return of 18 members from last season’s Quinnipiac team – the Bobcats have also added seven new faces.
And blending the new players into an older roster has its challenges.
“Integrating players is always tricky,” Da Costa said. “We’re always looking to evolve as a program. We’re looking to bring in players that are better than the ones who are exiting the program.”
More importantly, Da Costa believes the newcomers have to gel with the players and program.
“You have the right culture in the program and spend a lot of time improving and getting to know these young men, making sure it fits into what we do,” he said. “We’re not just looking for the best player we can find. We’re looking for the best player to fit into our program.”
While Da Costa is responsible for selecting the recruits, he counts on his veterans to make the youngsters transition painless.
One particular veteran he looks to is two-time all-MAAC defenseman selectee Tobias Esche, who has embraced the assignment.
“Since I’ve been at Quinnipiac, I am used to coming in and looking up to all the older guys,” Esche, a senior from Bremen, Germany, said. “Now, I’m in the position to tell the younger players what to do. I’m the one youngsters look up to.”
Quinnipiac went 1-0-1 record in the preseason before losing 1-0 to Boston College in the regular season opener and then getting a scoreless draw against the University of Connecticut.
The Bobcats have been selected to finish No. 2 in the MAAC Preseason Poll.
Quinnipiac doesn’t feel any pressure. In fact, they use the ranking as motivation, because they think they should have been selected No. 1 overall.
“We like the position we’re in,” Da Costa said. “We’re a blue-collar team. We like having a chip on our shoulder. The fact that people are underestimating us or not giving us the credit we deserve, we’re happy to carry that moving forward.”
Esche said he doesn’t see value in the preseason polls,
“I don’t like preseason polls,” he said. “Every year is different because every team changes. It’s nice that we’re expected to finish near the top of the MAAC, but I find the preseason poll worthless.”
Quinnipiac plays in its home opener on Friday, when it hosts UMass Lowell at 4 p.m.
“I know we lost the opener, but I feel that this year will be special because I want to leave Quinnipiac on a good note,” he said.
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