Quinnipiac women’s soccer is ready to pounce for a MAAC championship

Ethan Hurwitz, Sports Editor

Coming off a spring where they were named No. 1 in the MAAC Preseason Coaches Poll, as well as seeing the defending champion Monmouth Hawks leave the conference, the Quinnipiac women’s soccer team is, on paper at least, the favorite to claim the throne in 2022.

But how will they reach the highest peak in such a competitive conference? It all starts at the top.

Head coach Dave Clarke, who has been at Quinnipiac for 23 seasons, has been the one mainstay in a collegiate program that has been ‘oh-so-close’ for more than a decade. The winningest coach in Quinnipiac women’s soccer history is returning for another year after an abrupt loss to Monmouth in the conference championship halted a team’s seemingly-certain title.

“You got to look forward. You have to learn from your mistakes from the past. If you don’t look at the past and learn from the mistakes, you’re going to make them in the future,” Clarke said after the team’s 3-2 win against Maine on Saturday. “There’s so many twists and turns before, it has to be one game at a time.”

Clarke referenced a number of qualities needed to rebound from a tough championship defeat, but one thing in particular that is seen in this edition of Quinnipiac soccer has been its toughness and speed. These traits have been common denominators for this program, which has won 163 games since Clarke took over as head coach.

But coaching can only take a team so far.

Going down the hierarchy, it is hard to ignore junior forward Rebecca Cooke. The MAAC Preseason Player of the Year is coming off one of the best seasons that Quinnipiac soccer has seen in a number of years. After four games in 2022, Cooke already leads the team in goals (5), points (11), shots (25) and shots on goal (15).

This team also features several returning contributors, such as graduate student defenseman/forward Lauren Triglione, senior goaltender Meaghan Phillips and junior forward Courtney Chochol. This strong core of players may not get the media recognition that Cooke receives, but their ability to round the team out gives Clarke a lot of mix-and-match opportunities.

“I’ve been here a long time where you don’t have options on the bench, now there’s options everywhere,” Clarke said. “It’s a long season … Nothing changes.”

As usual, the incoming freshman class is already making impressive strides within the program. The youthfulness of first-year players can give a spark to any team, but this group has given Quinnipiac bunches of energy. Players like midfielder/defenseman Molly Andrews, midfielder/forward Milena Branco and forward Morgan Cupo are all contributing to the team’s early success not only in games, but also in practice and beyond.

“New people always bring that sense of competitiveness, they are eager to get into the team,” Cooke said. “It also puts pressure on us to maintain our standards, so that we can stay on the squad as well.”

The Bobcats have started off firing on all cylinders this season, but it won’t mean anything unless they can match that effort when conference play begins on Sept. 17. Quinnipiac closes out its regular season schedule with 10 straight MAAC matchups, a fantastic test before the conference playoffs.

For one of the better programs within Quinnipiac athletics, the gaping hole in the soccer team’s trophy case is glaring, as the Bobcats have not won a conference championship since 2001. However, based on the otherworldly expectations from last spring and the beginning of this season, 2022 might be a magical fall to remember in Hamden.