Quinnipiac remains red-hot in 3-2 win over Maine

Ethan Hurwitz, Sports Editor

HAMDEN, Conn – Almost one year to the day since their last matchup, the Quinnipiac Bobcats dug deep and handed the visiting Maine Black Bears their first loss of the season Saturday. The 3-2 victory gave Quinnipiac its first win in September, as junior forward Rebecca Cooke wrote another chapter in her already strong season, scoring two goals on the day. 

Quinnipiac’s unit, which has gotten out to fast starts to begin 2022, struggled to generate many attacks early in the game. Several offsides calls thwarted a couple open chances and allowed Maine to go on the offensive.

30 minutes into the first half, a Black Bears foul gave Cooke a chance to give Quinnipiac an early one-goal lead. The 2022 MAAC Preseason Player of the Year capitalized on a penalty shot (as she usually does) and her fourth goal of the season broke the scoreless tie. 

“She’s amazing,” junior forward Paige LaBerge said of Cooke. “She works so hard … It motivates us. She celebrates with us. It’s great.”

In the second half, Maine came out hot and showed a lot more aggression and speed, creating a number of scoring chances. However, Quinnipiac senior goaltender Sofia Lospinoso stood strong, winning her third game of the season. 

Within a five minute span, the Bobcats went from maintaining a nail-biting lead to opening the floodgates. Cooke found the ball in front of the net, thanks to a perfect pass from junior forward Courtney Chochol to double the lead. Although Chochol did not score, she received some high praise from her roommate. 

“We played in a lot of scrimmages together and this year, all my goals, apart from the penalty shot, have come from Courtney,” Cooke said. “She links in well with me and the other forwards too.”

In the 73rd minute, LaBerge squeaked the ball past Maine’s graduate goaltender Kira Kutzinski and the lead was pushed to three. But that lead would quickly evaporate. 

Graduate forward Saylor Clark (along with some good passing from freshman forward Madison Michaud) took over and scored twice to finally get Maine on the scoreboard. The breakdowns on defense were the first real mistake that the Bobcats had made all afternoon. 

“The last 10 minutes are our weakness right now,” LaBerge said. “Playing the whole 90 minutes instead of being up 3-0 and being too casual.”

A last-ditch effort by the Black Bears ultimately came up empty and a missed free kick with one second remaining signaled the end to the game. It was a dramatic end to a game in which head coach Dave Clarke said was avoidable.  

“Those goals were when first-year players were on the field and they got to learn to step in front of a player,” Clarke said. “Giving away a free kick on the halfway line … it’s game management, the dark arts as I like to call them.”

The win also showcased the depth of this Bobcats team, as starting midfielder Markeyla Bejleri was not seen on the field or bench throughout the afternoon. Bejleri, who has yet to register a point this season, was replaced nicely by sophomore Ella Gagno.

“Ella started a lot last year … so I’m not worried. She has a different type of game to ‘Marky’,” Clarke said. “I don’t want Ella to be like ‘Marky’ and I don’t want ‘Marky’ to be like Ella.” 

On the heels of a 4-1 loss against Yale, the Bobcats were able to muster down and limit a Maine team, who came into Saturday riding a four game unbeaten streak. Quinnipiac moved to 3-1 on the young season and will now prepare for a home matchup against Fordham on Sept. 7, with conference play on the horizon.