Iona eliminates Quinnipiac from MAAC tournament by a score of 2-1

Riley Millette, Staff Writer

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Over a year ago, the Quinnipiac Bobcats and the Marist Red Foxes battled in the MAAC semifinals. After a whopping eight rounds of penalty kicks, the Bobcats notched the win and moved on to the finals.

After suffering a 1-0 loss to the Rider Broncs in the 2018 finals, the Bobcats returned to the semifinals as the No. 2 seed, hosting the No. 3 Iona Gaels.

Jared Penna
Junior goalkeeper Jared Mazzola makes a diving stop.

The Bobcats (9-5-3) were hungry to get their revenge against the Gaels (12-5-1) after suffering a 2-1 loss to them earlier in the regular season.

However, history has a tendency of repeating itself, and Iona defeated Quinnipiac 2-1 to move on to the MAAC finals.

The match came down to Quinnipiac’s finishing, as the Bobcats managed six shots on goal but only one goal. Many shots either went wide or right at the goalkeeper, leading to dead chances and swings in possession.

“They had three decent looks at goal, and two of them went in. We had six, seven, eight really good looks, and we didn’t,” Quinnipiac head coach Eric Da Costa said. “They put their chances away, and we weren’t able to do enough to get over the hump.”

The first goal of the game was scored in the 22nd minute by Iona junior midfielder Josh Plimpton. After a string of passes from junior forward Najim Romero and freshman midfielder Jon Paul Fernandez, Plimpton charged through the box from the right side and challenged junior goalkeeper Jared Mazzola, roofing the ball in the top left corner.

The game wasn’t without its controversy, as Bobcat players on the field and on the bench erupted after they suspected a penalty committed by Iona, but the ref let them play on, and the ball was cleared.

The best chance for the Bobcats came in the 33rd minute, when senior forward Eamon Whelan found himself unmarked from just outside the box, as freshman forward Tomas Svecula was drawing attention from a lot of the Iona defenders. However, Whelan was called offside, and the chance fizzled out.

The Gaels responded quickly by feeding the speedy Romero on the counterattack, and Mazzola received a yellow card after diving for the ball, tripping up Romero after knocking the ball loose, giving Iona a penalty shot. Romero put the shot right down the middle, increasing the advantage to 2-0.

The second half was the same as the first, as the Bobcats lost another big play to a referee’s decision. The Bobcats called for a handball in the box, but the referee, again, decided to let the game continue.

Brendan O’Sullivan
Senior midfielder Romain Daniellou sends the ball up the field.

 

The 53rd minute featured a missed handball in the box as well. The crowd was bellowing for a penalty, stamping on the bleachers, but nothing came of the protest. Postgame footage showed that the ball made contact with an Iona defender’s hand, but there was nothing that could be done in the moment. Da Costa showed his displeasure as well, jawing with an assistant referee on the sideline.

“Today we didn’t get those bounces, didn’t get those calls,” Da Costa said. “A few of them were probably easy and clear, but the whistle just didn’t blow for us today.”

As the amount of time remaining in the game became a serious factor, the Bobcats lit the fire. Freshman forward Brage Aasen dashed forward with the ball at his feet after breaking through the crowded Iona backline and challenged the keeper, putting it off his hand and in with 1:44 left in the game. Although the late goal sparked some hope for the Bobcats, nothing else came of the late surge.

“There’s no quit in this team, there’s no quit in this program,” Da Costa said. “That’s the culture of who we are. That’s something I walk away from really proud.”

Quinnipiac’s season ended on Thursday, Nov. 14, but Da Costa expressed infinite pride in his players, and how they carried themselves throughout the year, especially in games like this where they fought to the very end.

“At the end of the day, the character that they displayed, and the fight that they put into this game is reflective of what we’ve dealt with all year,” Da Costa said. “We pick our heads up, and we move on. There’s nothing I could ask more of them that they didn’t give.”