A season that began with such promise may be coming to a screeching halt for the Quinnipiac men’s soccer team.
After starting the season 9-0-2, the best start in school history, the Bobcats have gone winless over their last six games, posting a record of 0-2-4 during that stretch. The Bobcats were leapfrogged in the Northeast Conference standings this weekend by Central Connecticut, who jumped into the fourth and final playoff spot in the NEC tournament.
While the Bobcats still hold out hope for a possible at-large bid into the NCAA tournament, head coach Eric Da Costa knows his team’s season may be ending prematurely.
“It hurts real bad. You want to see these guys rewarded for their efforts, but you just have to look at the last five weeks and we put ourselves in this position,” he said.
After winning their first three conference games, the Bobcats went winless over their last six, scoring only three goals in those six games.
During that stretch, however, the Bobcat’s did not lack chances to earn wins and the key three points that may have put them into the postseason.
Twice they held 1-0 leads in the last five minutes of contests, but both times surrendered a goal and settled for a tie.
After playing nearly the full season with the entire roster at Da Costa’s disposal, the Bobcats succumbed to some injury problems as well.
“At some point we wore down. We have guys that have been battling injuries that other players would sit out for. We’ve been working real hard and have just been a little unlucky as well,” he said.
In addition to injuries, the Bobcats have been subject to issues with red cards as well.
Midfielder Fabricio Silva was issued a red card, along with Da Costa, following a controversial call in a game at Mt. St. Mary’s on Oct. 26. According to Da Costa, the Bobcats believed they had tied the game during the 1-0 defeat, but the officials ruled the ball never crossed the goal line. According to NEC rules, a player issued a red card must be suspended for the following two games.
In Friday’s game against St. Francis, (NY), Silva was forced to sit out the second game of his suspension, and fellow sophomore midfielder Ross McGibney was unable to play for reasons within the program according to Da Costa.
Despite the losses in the midfield, the Bobcats led 1-0 on a goal by Danilo Schiavon, his sixth of the season. Truong Nguyen played a lofted ball across the goal mouth. The ball was headed onto to Schiavon by Shane Recklet, who stepped into the midfield position from his defensive position to replace McGibney, and Schiavon headed it past the keeper to give the Bobcats the lead.
With just 14 minutes remaining in the second half, a skirmish between a Terrier defender and Nick Pelicaen erupted into a near brawl. The Terrier defender connected on a swinging elbow to the back of Pelicaen’s head and was given a yellow card by the head referee. Words were exchanged by players in the area from both teams and eventually all 22 players on the field were huddled around each other, with some pushing and shoving.
After conferring with the line judge, the referee gave Graciano Brito a red card, ejecting him from the game and forcing him to miss Sunday’s contest as well. Da Costa and the Bobcats were forced to play the remainder of the game down a man.
“It’s really unfortunate that it takes the spotlight from a quality game. We were in complete control, and in that three minute period of chaos and lack of control by the referee, it was taken away,” DaCosta said. “Referees are not held accountable for their actions like players are. There are more good then bad, but they are human and make mistakes. I guess we’ve just got to learn from it.”
Over the next 15 minutes, the Bobcats attempted to hang onto their lead and move one step closer to an NEC playoff berth. After numerous diving saves by Freddy Hall, the Terriers found the back of the net with 4:40 left in the second half.
Both teams had a couple chances in the two overtime periods, but the game ended in a 1-1 tie.
“Freddy made some great saves to keep us in it and credit their goalie for doing the same. We had clear chances to put it away. That’s what Freddy does, what everyone knows he can do, make big saves at crucial times,” Da Costa said.
With Brito suspended for Sunday’s game against LIU, the Bobcats needed to win or tie to have a chance to make the NEC playoffs and get help from St. Francis (NY) against CCSU.
While both teams had countless chances throughout the game, including three Bobcat shots that trickled just wide of the post and one with three seconds left in the second overtime, the match ended in a 0-0 tie. When CCSU tied St. Francis (NY) 1-1, the Bobcat’s dreams of an NEC tournament championship were dashed.
After the game, Da Costa said how tough of a time it is for the Bobcats.
“This is never easy. The game is built around emotion and passion and these guys live for this. It is hard right now to find the right words to say to them. We can’t let this cast a shadow on what an incredible season we’ve had,” he said.
The Bobcats conclude the regular season on Sunday, Nov. 11th against Iona College. The team’s six seniors will be honored before their final home game at Bobcat Field.