Championship in sight

Quinnipiac women’s soccer prepares for MAAC playoffs

Colin Kennedy, Staff Writer

 As New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick once said, “Do your job.” That is exactly what the Quinnipiac women’s soccer team has done all season long. Coming into the regular season ranked No. 1 in the MAAC preseason poll, the Bobcats had lofty expectations to meet. Not only did they meet those predictions, but they have surpassed them. 

Quinnipiac wrapped up its regular season on Oct. 26, when the team defeated Mount St. Mary’s 3-0. In doing so, they clinched a share of the MAAC regular season title with Fairfield. On the way to the regular season title, the Bobcats bulldozed their way through the MAAC boasting a 9-1 conference record, with their only loss coming to Iona. They also finished the regular season with an 8-0 record at home, the best in the MAAC. 

Although Quinnipiac had a great regular season, it has to turn its attention towards the conference playoffs. After all, the reason you play regular season games is to see the hard work pay off in the playoffs. 

“I think we knew this was coming and we deserve it,” senior forward Paige LaBerge said. “We worked so hard for this.” 

The Bobcats have definitely put themselves in the best position to succeed, having clinched a first-round bye and will play in the semi-finals on Nov. 3, against No. 5 Canisius. Quinnipiac also received home-field advantage throughout the MAAC tournament due to its top seed, which, considering its dominance at home, may be the most important aspect of all. 

This incredible run to getting the No. 1 seed in the MAAC has been a year in the making for the Bobcats. Only a day after falling to Monmouth in last season’s championship, Quinnipiac had its sights set on the 2022 campaign by establishing three goals. 

“We said winning the league, No. 1 seed and six shutouts,” head coach Dave Clarke said. “That was on the board in January, and then that was on the board 81 days ago.” 

Success starts at the top and that’s no different with the women’s soccer program. The Bobcats are led by Clarke, who is in his 23rd season at the helm for Quinnipiac. He’s the winningest coach in program history with a 174-162- 37 record with the Bobcats. However, the one accolade that has eluded Clarke in his career at Quinnipiac is a MAAC championship. 

Since joining the MAAC in 2013, the Bobcats have been the runner-up twice, both times losing to Monmouth, who left the conference after last season. Clarke has the experience and resume to lead this team to its first conference title since 2001. 

“I’m giving you the exam, all you have to do is go out there and do it,” Clarke said. “So they have all the answers.” 

The Bobcats have taken a very academic approach to their dominant regular season, they haven’t failed many tests and have a team full of straight A players on the field. 

One of those players is junior forward Rebecca Cooke. Cooke has had an outstanding season so far and is one of the main reasons that Quinnipiac is in the position that it is. Cooke currently leads all of NCAA Division I with 19 goals, including five game-winning goals. Cooke was one of seven Bobcats named to the All-MAAC First Team, and earned the league’s Golden Boot, given to the top goal-scorer in the conference. 

The Dublin native isn’t the only standout on this team. Junior forward Courtney Chochol has also made her impact on the path to the No. 1 seed. Chochol finds herself near the top of the national leaderboards, tied for third in assists with 12. With a one-two punch like Cooke and Chochol, it’s not hard to envision this team back in the finals. 

Quinnipiac women’s soccer finished the regular season with
a 13-2-1 record. (Daniel Passapera)

Although many of the Bobcats fly under the radar, many of them received long-awaited recognition when the All-MAAC teams were announced. Seven Quinnipiac players received first team honors including; Cooke, Chochol, senior midfielder Olivia Scott, junior midfielder Emely van der Vliet, senior defenseman Kayla Mingachos, graduate student defenseman Emily DeNunzio and senior midfielder Markela Bejleri. 

Two Bobcats were also named to the All-MAAC second team, graduate student defenseman Lauren Triglione and junior goalkeeper Sofia Lospinoso. Senior forward Paige LaBerge was named to the third team. 

Harkening back to their academic approach, Quinnipiac’s stellar play also translates to the classroom. The Bobcats had a conference-best 21 players named to the MAAC All-Academic team. 

If the Bobcats are going to finally get over the hump, they are going to need contributions from the top down like they have gotten all season long. 

Now the Bobcats must check off the final, most challenging task on their to-do list. 

“We’ve done two out of the three and now everyone has the same goal with the last one,” Clarke said. 

Quinnipiac and its semi-finals opponent, Canisius, have a long history. The Bobcats and the Golden Griffins last played back on Sept. 24, where the Bobcats won 1-0. Cooke scored the lone goal of the game in what was a tough and physical matchup. Expect the intensity to raise to another level on Nov. 3, when the playoff atmosphere takes over. 

The Bobcats could potentially face either No. 2 Fairfield or No. 3 Niagara for the MAAC championship game on Nov. 6. Quinnipiac last played Niagara on Sept. 17, where they won 4-0. The Bobcats defeated Fairfield, 3-2 on Oct. 1, in the game that ultimately gave them home-field advantage. 

Quinnipiac has had the answers all season long. With that being said, the hardest test is yet to come for the Bobcats. When it’s time to take the exam on Nov. 3, we’ll see if Quinnipiac is finally ready to ace that test and reach the top of the MAAC.