What you should know heading into the women’s soccer playoff game on Sunday


Connor Lawless

The Bobcats begin the tournament with a 7-3 in-conference record, second-best in the MAAC.

Michael LaRocca, Staff Writer

After Quinnipiac women’s soccer (7-3 MAAC, 12-4) defeated Fairfield on Wednesday by a score of 3-0, the team officially clinched the MAAC’s No. 2 seed in the upcoming conference tournament.

This sets up a matchup between the Bobcats and the No. 7 seeded Marist Red Foxes (4-4-2 MAAC, 5-6-3) on Sunday, Oct. 31, at 12 p.m.

The game itself will be a rematch of these team’s meeting earlier this season on Oct. 2, a 1-0 Quinnipiac victory in double overtime off of a golden goal by sophomore forward Rebecca Cooke in the 104th minute.

Despite the chasm between these two teams in the standings, this game will look to be one of the more intriguing matchups of the MAAC tournament’s opening weekend.

Bringing you up to speed

The Bobcats’ 22nd season under head coach Dave Clarke has certainly been one to remember. Quinnipiac’s 12-4 regular season record is the best the program has seen since the literal turn of the millennium, and has justly earned it a near-top seed in the tournament for the second straight season.

The key for the Bobcats this year is to take advantage of their squad’s talent and finish the job. This will be the program’s sixth straight MAAC tournament berth, with the team going 5-5 in postseason play over that span, so something has got to give. The closest Clarke’s squad came to a championship was a 5-2 loss to Monmouth in the 2016 title game. Since then, it has not made it past the semifinal round.

The Bobcats have shown this season that they can be contenders in the MAAC, now all they have to do is go out and prove it.

The Red Foxes have had an interesting 2021 to say the least. This year’s fall season has been the first slate of meaningful soccer that Marist has played in two years. Its 2020-21 spring season, the first season with head coach Brittany Kolmel at the helm of the program, was cut even shorter than expected. The Red Foxes played the first game of their season, which was coincidentally a 3-1 loss on the road to Quinnipiac, and was then forced to postpone the rest of the season due to COVID-19 protocols.

Now that soccer is back in full swing nationwide, Kolmel’s Red Foxes have been victimized by a problem as old as sport itself, the inability to finish games. Marist’s 5-6-3 overall record is extremely misleading. Looking deeper into its schedule, one will find that five of its six losses were by one goal. Beyond that, the Red Foxes have also played in five games that were decided in double overtime. In those games, they went 0-2-3, including their 1-0 loss to Quinnipiac.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, four out of Marist’s five wins were decided by one goal as well. Its only win by more than a single goal was a 2-0 upset of the eventual No. 1 seed Monmouth Hawks. That game in particular would be Monmouth’s only loss in conference play all season.

This squad has shown that it can play tough games against any opponent, any day of the week. That mindset will be the sword they will wield as they arrive in Hamden on Sunday morning.

Players to watch

A Goalie Matchup for the Ages

Sophomore goalkeeper Sofia Lospinoso leads the MAAC in goals against average (.445). Photo from Peyton McKenzie

This game is set to be a battle between the MAAC’s two best goaltenders, Marist senior Natalie Kelchner and Quinnipiac sophomore Sofia Lospinoso.

Kelchner has been the main bright spot for Red Foxes this season, being the key reason why they were competitive in each and every game. Her .871 save percentage led the MAAC, she shut out her opponents on four separate occasions and only allowed more than one goal in a game twice this season.

While Kelchner had the best full season out of any keeper in the MAAC, Lospinoso’s greatness cannot be kept out of the conversation. Ever since she took over the majority of the goalkeeping duties for the Bobcats on Sept. 25, she has only allowed four goals over the course of 808 minutes of game time, leading the MAAC in goals against average by a wide margin.

Lospinoso also is going into the tournament on fire, pitching shutouts in the final two games of Quinnipiac’s season, and contributing to six overall this season.

With the keepers on both teams performing at such a high level, goals will certainly be at a premium, just like what was seen when the two teams played almost a month ago.

THE Dynamic Duo
The story of Quinnipiac’s success this season cannot be told without mentioning the legendary play of Cooke and senior midfielder Selena Salas. The two have been the key contributors for the Bobcats all year, with Salas leading the team in points (28) and Cooke being second (26).

Their statistical prowess has made itself known across the conference as well. Cooke’s 12 goals and 26 points are good enough for second and third place in the MAAC, respectively. Salas has also been prolific, finishing first in the MAAC in assists (12), fourth in goals (8) and second in points (28).

Marist is familiar with the star power these two generate, with Salas being credited with the assist on Cooke’s golden goal in its prior matchup.

Final Thoughts

This game between a No. 2 seed and a No. 7 seed is a gross mislabeling of its true potential. If both teams come to play, it should without a doubt be one of the best games in the entire MAAC tournament.

This is only the quarterfinals, however. The winner of this game will play the winner of the matchup between No. 3 seed Niagara (7-3 MAAC, 13-4) and No. 6 seed Fairfield (5-4-1 MAAC, 9-6-3), two tough teams in their own right.

The matchup will be on Sunday, Oct. 31 at 12 p.m. at Quinnipiac Soccer and Lacrosse Stadium and can be watched online through ESPN+.