Cooke’s two goals lead Quinnipiac to victory in home opener

Michael LaRocca, Opinion Editor

HAMDEN, Conn – On a blistering hot Thursday afternoon, Quinnipiac women’s soccer picked up a 2-1 comeback victory over Stony Brook behind two goals from MAAC Preseason Player of the Year, Rebecca Cooke. The program’s fourth-straight home-opening victory improved the Bobcats’ record to 2-0 on the young season. 

Coming off a convincing 3-0 win over Lafayette on Aug. 18, the Bobcats weren’t as convincing to start the match. The Seawolves found a hole in Quinnipiac’s defense, allowing freshman forward Hannah Maracina to score on a breakaway, giving her team an early 1-0 lead six minutes in.

The rest of the first half was a battle. Both teams put a combined seven shots on net after the initial score. Highlighted by the stellar goaltending of both Quinnipiac junior Sofia Lospinoso and Stony Brook senior Emerson Richmond Burke, the score remained stagnant after the initial score.

The tide began to shift for the Bobcats in the 22nd minute, when Cooke was subbed into the game after starting on the bench. The star striker was left out of the starting lineup in the past two games after being late to summer practices due to travel issues coming from her native Ireland. 

“She’s a week to 10 days behind everybody else,” Quinnipiac head coach Dave Clarke said. “The thing is, she’s been playing in Europe, so getting into 90 minute games. We know her fitness was there … It’s been hot in Europe, but the humidity here is a little bit different.”

The junior and reigning First Team All-MAAC recipient  immediately made an impact, giving Quinnipiac its best scoring chance of the game in the 26th minute, but no one was home to put away her cross. 

The visiting Seawolves were able to withstand the superior physicality of the Bobcats and the score remained 1-0 heading into the break. 

During the break, the Stony Brook coaches made the decision to substitute Richmond Burke in net for freshman Ava King, a Hamden native, for the back half of the contest. 

Quinnipiac immediately took advantage, as Cooke sliced through the Stony Brook defense on a breakaway, putting home the equalizer in the 50th minute.

By this point in the game, the heat had reached 90 degrees fahrenheit causing several Bobcats to cramp up in the middle of play.

However, the weather didn’t beat the Bobcats as after a full half of physical play, Cooke put home the golden goal in the 85th minute after a shot from junior forward Courtney Chochol got away from King. 

“She’ll be bugging me now not to leave her on the sidelines,” Clarke said. “You want to do that when you can bring it off the bench and change the game.”

The Quinnipiac defense, backed by Lospinoso, shut down Stony Brook for the game’s remainder, securing the Bobcats’ eighth home-opener victory in the past nine seasons. 

The aforementioned pairing was the life force of the Bobcats, as most of the shots on goal the defense did allow were soft liners directly at Lospinoso from far out, making it easy to keep the back of her net undisturbed.

“We communicate constantly,” Lospinoso said. “If it’s going to go long, it’s going to go long and the whole team kind of knows that. So we’re all on the same page and fighting for the same thing. We have a good relationship in that way.”

With Monmouth making the jump from the MAAC to the Colonial Athletic Association, Quinnipiac has taken note that this may be the year it can fight with the other teams for a conference championship, especially after being ranked No. 1 in the MAAC Preseason Coaches’ Poll. 

“Obviously, our goal is to win the MAAC,” Cooke said. “And obviously with Monmouth leaving, it does leave a gap for a team to fill. I’d say Niagara, maybe Rider, Fairfield. I mean, it’s the MAAC, anything can happen.”

Quinnipiac will continue its journey to fill that gap on Aug. 28, when the team travels to New Haven to play rival Yale at 1 p.m.