Smith: ‘We’re going to keep fighting’

Quinnipiac men’s soccer prepares for final push heading into MAAC playoffs


Peyton McKenzie

Junior defender Jared Smith recorded his second career goal in the Bobcats’ 1-1 tie with Iona on Saturday.

Milton Woolfenden, Staff Writer

With five games to go in the regular season, Quinnipiac men’s soccer is gearing up for a deep playoff run.

After a 1-1 tie against Iona on Oct. 15, the team moved to 8-3-2, currently fourth in the MAAC, with an in-conference record of 3-1-1. While early season predictions pegged Rider, Iona and Saint Peter’s as the Bobcats’ main competition, only the Gaels have become true threats to the Bobcats. Iona is currently fifth in the MAAC while Rider sits in eighth and Saint Peter’s is at the bottom of the conference in 11th.

Manhattan, which finished eighth last season, currently leads the conference, with a record of 4-1-1. Last year’s conference champion, Marist, is currently ranked 10th.

The Bobcats’ offense has been built around the senior class. Forward and captain David Bercedo leads the team in goals (9), points (21) and shots on goal (20). Looking at overall points, three of the top five spots belong to seniors.

However, Quinnipiac has also shown its depth this season, as it went over a month without senior forward Brage Aasen, one of its key players, going 6-2 over that period.

Aasen was injured during the team’s game at Northeastern on Sept. 6, and only returned to play Wednesday against Rider, register- ing an assist as part of a Bobcats’ 3-0 win.

As he gets more minutes, Aasen should be able to reach his pre-injury ability and become an offensive threat once more.

“He’s gotta continue to work on his fitness,” Bobcats head coach Eric Da Costa said. “His skill set is special and it’ll come in big for us in the long run.”

Freshman midfielder Alexander Stjernegaard and sophomore forward Sam McCann have proved to be reliable sources of offense. Stjernegaard currently has four goals and a team-leading nine assists, while McCann has six goals on the season, which places him second on the team behind only Bercedo.

So far this season, the team has had 18 different players register at least one point, with 12 being non-starters.

Of those 18, half of them are underclassmen, led by McCann and Stjernegaard.

Playing with passion is important in any sport, soccer included. The appropriate amount of passion can be a good thing. However, if you play with too much passion you can start to make costly mistakes.

The team has had 32 total cards so far this season, compared to 29 total cards all of last season. However, when the team has been assessed two or fewer cards in a game, they have a record of 6-1-1.

“We try not to match their physicality, we try to make them match our intensity,” senior midfielder Jason Budhai said after the team’s 3-2 victory against Marist on Oct. 5.

The team’s final five games of the regular season are at Manhattan, at home against Saint Peter’s, at Mount St. Mary’s, a final home game against Canisius and the regular season finale on the road at Niagara.

It isn’t the most desirable final five games, but it’s manageable.

The team should be able to handle Saint Peter’s and Canisius. Neither team has an in-conference victory and has a combined record of 2-15-8. In four of their five MAAC games this season, Saint Peter’s has been held scoreless. The Peacocks also haven’t won on the road yet this season, going 0-9.

Canisius has only scored six goals this season, granted three of those came against Iona. Just like Saint Peter’s, the Golden Eagles have not won a road game yet this season, going 0-3-2.

Mount St. Mary’s will be a toss-up, as the Bobcats have never won back-to-back matchups against the Mountaineers. This will be the teams’ first meeting since 2012. This is Mount St. Mary’s first season in the MAAC, after playing in the NEC since the school’s jump to Divison I in 1989.

The Mountaineers are currently seventh in the MAAC, with an in-conference record of 2-3-1. While the team got shutout 5-0 vs Niagara, they ended in a 2-2 tie at Manhattan.

The team has struggled for possession, with opponents having over 100 more shots, and exactly twice as many shots on goal.

The biggest question marks on the schedule are Manhattan and Niagara.

While Niagara is 4-6-3 overall, they’re 3-0-2 in-conference. That being said, it’s only played one top-five team, Siena, that Quinnipiac defeated 2-0.

The Bobcats have almost doubled Niagara’s offensive output, scoring 35 goals against Niagara’s 19.

Manhattan ended in a scoreless tie at Siena, and lost 2-1 at Iona, so there is potential. However, just like the Bobcats, Manhattan hasn’t lost on home turf yet this season.

Two players the Bobcats will need to keep an eye on are the Manhattan duo of sophomore forwards Gunnar Studenhofft and Henry Hamilton.

Studenhofft is tied for the team lead in points (11), which includes four goals. Hamilton is tied for the team lead with five goals. Three of those goals have come as a result of penalty kicks. So far this season, the Bobcats haven’t awarded a penalty kick to the opposition.

Behind junior goalkeeper Danny DiMarco, the Jaspers have only surrendered 14 goals so far this season. DiMarco has faced 80 shots this season and has only allowed six goals in 11 starts, resulting in a goals against average of 0.58.

For reference, Bobcats freshman goaltender Karl Netzell has faced 79 shots in 10 starts, allowing 14 goals, for a GA/AVG of 1.47.

Something the Bobcats might be able to capitalize on is that the Jaspers appear to be a first-half team.

The Jaspers have surrendered 10 of 14 goals in the second half, allowed 70 of 113 shots, awarded 30 of 45 corners and their op- ponents have taken 29 fewer fouls in the second half. If the Bobcats can keep the game close in the first half, they stand a good chance in the second half.

There’s no question that a spot in the MAAC playoffs is in the Bobcats’ future, the team has shown its depth and offensive abilities this season.

If the Bobcats hope to be MAAC champions there are some things that, regardless of the opponent, the team will have to make a priority. These include overall team health, being able to keep cards to a minimum and continued production from underclassmen.

Bobcats junior defender Jared Smith put it best after the team’s tie vs Iona on Saturday.

“As long as there’s time left on that clock we’re going to keep fighting,” Smith said.