Bobcats claim MAAC regular season title with shutout win over Mount St. Mary’s


Quinnipiac Athletics

Quinnipiac women’s soccer finished the regular season 13-2-1.

Ryan Raggio, Staff Writer

HAMDEN, Conn – After the Quinnipiac women’s soccer team shut out the Saint Peter’s Peacocks on Saturday, the team clinched first place in the MAAC with a 3-0 shutout against Mount St. Mary’s on Wednesday. 

The Mountaineers’ stout defense posed a problem for the Bobcats as they were kept locked in their cage. In the 10th minute, Quinnipiac’s offense finally gained possession in its 18-yard box. 

Junior forward Rebecca Cooke got open above the box and fired a missile at the top left corner, but Mount St. Mary’s junior goalkeeper Arden Lembryk made the fingertip save after leaping high to her right. 

The next 30 minutes was like watching Super Bowl 53. Both sides showcased tough defense, but could’t maintain any offensive pressure. Countless turnovers at midfield and shots that would have been hiking the Sleeping Giant if there were no netting, summarized the end of the half.  

Quinnipiac has been a second half team throughout the season. Of its 48 goals this year, 30 of them were scored in the second half. Head Coach Dave Clarke says his team has an academic approach when coming back from halftime. 

“They know the answers,” Clarke said. “I tell them every day, ‘I’m giving you the exam, all you have to do is just go out there and do it.’ I think at halftime there’s more of a focus and it’s a sign of a good team. The game is 90 minutes for a reason, and over the 90 minutes they executed. ”

The Bobcats did just that as they pounced on the Mountaineers early in the second half. In the 45th minute, senior midfielder Markela Bejleri set up for a corner kick. The ball found its way to senior midfielder Olivia Scott after knocking it down and was able to finish it cleanly for the opening tally. 

10 minutes later, Cooke raced down the right sideline, weaving her way through defenders before crossing it to senior forward Paige LaBerge, who had a wide open net, but missed high. She crouched down in disbelief at the missed opportunity. 

Soon after, the Bobcats picked each other up. In the 56th minute, Bejleri found Scott once again, who put it past Lembryk with ease. The on-field chemistry between the two was on full display in the final regular season game of the year. 

“I’ve known Marky (Bejleri) since we were 12 years old,” Scott said. “She knows where I’m gonna be and I know what she’s gonna do. She knows where to find me.”

As the end of October turns the leaves to red and orange, it also has Scott turning red-hot. She’s tallied five goals in the final three games of the season. 

Three minutes later, LaBerge redeemed herself as she was in the right place at the right time. Off a pass from midfield, Cooke fired the ball across which Lembryk made a falling save on a junior forward Courtney Chocol shot. The rebound began trickling towards the open net and a Mountaineer defender kicked it right into LaBerge and ricocheted the ball in. This capped the Bobcat frenzy and gave them a 3-0 lead. 

As the clock struck 90, the sun peaked out from behind the clouds and shined its golden light on the field as the Bobcats raced out from the bench to celebrate their MAAC regular season title, the first since joining the conference in 2014. 

“I think that it speaks to the process,” Clarke said. “It’s not week to week. We started this the day after we lost to Monmouth. We gave them the data and we gave them the goals; winning the league, number one seed, and six shutouts. That was on the board in January and that was on the board 81 days ago.”

The Bobcats (13-2-1, 9-1 MAAC) earned a first-round bye after dominating the regular season. They will prepare for the MAAC semifinals, which will be held in Hamden on Nov. 3. 

“We deserve it and we’ve worked so hard for this,” LaBerge said. “That was written on the board, so we’re just checking boxes at this point.”