Quinnipiac men’s soccer team get its heart broken again

The Bobcats have made it to four finals since 2013, but have only secured one title

Riley Millette, Sports Editor

This year seemed different for the Quinnipiac men’s soccer team. It has been a force for years. But this year, it couldn’t quite get over the hump.

Quinnipiac joined the MAAC in July 2013 after leaving the Patriot League. The men’s soccer team won the MAAC championship that season, defeating Monmouth in the finals. But ever since then, titles have been hard to come by.

The team has only made it to the big game three times since 2013, including the 2021 championship, and it lost every time. Quinnipiac men’s soccer head coach Eric Da Costa said that each loss hurts more than the next.

Sophomore forward Brage Aasen led the team in goals (5) and assists (4) this season. (Morgan Tencza)

“We expect to be successful and we work hard for that, and that’s why these types of results cut deep,” Da Costa said.

Something about the 2021 MAAC tournament seemed different. Maybe it was the time of year, as the playoffs happened in the spring because of COVID-19 rather than the usual fall season.

The Bobcats were the No. 1 seed in the MAAC and lined up against the No. 6 Monmouth Hawks. It’s a warning as old as time — any team can win any game in the tournament. But it’s not hard to feel confident as the 5-1 regular season champions when your title game opponent is the No. 6 seed who finished 2-2-1 before the playoffs began.

Nevertheless, the championship game still had Quinnipiac’s number. The team lost 1-0 against Monmouth on Hamden soil, as the heartbroken Bobcats could do nothing other than watch the Hawks pave their way into the NCAA tournament.

The way the team lost was especially heartbreaking. In the 86th minute, right on the precipice of a much-needed breather before overtime, the Quinnipiac defense just couldn’t keep up with Monmouth sophomore forward Julian Gomez, who was knocking on the door all game long. He racked up three shots on goal, easily the most from either side. Sophomore midfielder Nick Rogers took the ball at his feet, cut around a couple of Bobcat defenders, then lofted a cross to the far side of the goal from the right side of the 18-yard box. Gomez dove and headed it home, just beating out senior goalkeeper Jared Mazzola, earning him the MAAC championship MVP award.

But the story of the game from Quinnipiac’s perspective was Monmouth’s shutout. The offensive system that had worked so well for the Bobcats in the past fell silent. Sophomore forward Brage Aasen, who led the team in both goals (5) and assists (4), was subbed out at the 76th minute and did not come back until the 86th minute, immediately following the game-winning goal from Gomez.

The Hawks held the dominant Quinnipiac attack to only two shots in the first half, despite the Bobcats controlling the ball for a decent amount of time.

It all came down to the finishing for the Bobcats. Quinnipiac fired off seven shots in the second half, but only one of the nine total shots were on target. The Bobcats still compiled eight corner kicks, evidence that they controlled the ball in their offensive half, but they couldn’t quite make them count, and it cost them a trip to the NCAA tournament in North Carolina.

Da Costa was disappointed about the loss but made it a point to convey how proud he was of his players.

The Quinnipiac men’s soccer team lost in the MAAC championship 1-0 to Monmouth. (Morgan Tencza)

“Our guys have to hold their heads up high,” Da Costa said. “It’s an extremely difficult season that we had to endure. For us to make the sacrifices that we did and be able to come together as a group and have some success throughout the entire season and have an opportunity to win a championship today is something they should be proud of.”

There are some important players for the team that are academic seniors at the moment. All seniors have the opportunity to exercise their extra year of athletic eligibility because of the pandemic. Mazzola, defender Griffin Scaglia, and midfielders Simon Hillinger and Paulo Soares are the big names set to depart Hamden barring an opt-in.

“You always want to give them something to move on with, and I think that’s the thing that hurts the most,” Da Costa said. “There’s certain guys that are not gonna have that opportunity again.”

With or without these players on the field, Da Costa recognized that it’s time to move forward.

“We’re not complacent,” Da Costa said. “We don’t rest on past successes. We’re just gonna let this feeling sink in for a while before we turn around and reevaluate, but trust me, we will turn this program upside down and inside out trying to figure out how we can get better or what we can do better.”