Rebecca Cooke scores late penalty kick, sends Bobcats to MAAC title game

Zack Hochberg, Staff Writer

HAMDEN, Conn – The No. 1 Quinnipiac women’s soccer team used a late penalty kick goal from star junior forward Rebecca Cooke to beat No. 5 Canisius 1-0, advancing to their second straight MAAC title game. 

The Bobcats started the game pushing their attackers forward and trying to create chances around the net, just like they’ve done countless times this season. However, a stout defensive effort by Canisius kept the Bobcats scoreless for the entirety of the first half. 

Canisius used a ‘bend but don’t break’ style of soccer throughout the match. The Bobcats were able to control possession for a large majority of the first frame, but with the Golden Griffins playing four or even five players on the back line, it was hard for the Bobcats to muster any quality offensive chances. 

“They defended in numbers, they put their body on the line, which again is a credit to their team,” Quinnipiac head coach Dave Clarke said. 

Canisius was physical with its on-ball defense throughout, racking up 23 fouls in the process. Three Golden Griffins picked up yellow cards in the first half, including sophomore defender Erin Weir, who picked up a yellow in the 41st minute. 

Quinnipiac outshot Canisius 7-0 and had two corner kicks to Canisius’ zero, but the two sides headed into halftime all knotted at zero. 

In the second half, it was almost identical to the first half. Quinnipiac would try to poke a hole in the Golden Griffins’ defense, only for Canisius to clear the ball out towards midfield and the attack would start all over again.

The physicality of the Golden Griffins ultimately created the Bobcats best offensive opportunity of the game, when Canisius’ sophomore defender Sophia Konstantinou dragged down a Quinnipiac attacker in the 77th minute inside the box, giving the Bobcats a penalty kick.

Junior forward Courtney Chochol took the penalty kick for Quinnipiac, but it connected with the right post instead of the back of the net to keep the game tied.

Just two minutes later, Cooke got hit in the box, and the referee awarded Quinnipiac yet another penalty kick. 

“They got emotional after the first penalty, which ultimately led to the second penalty,” Clarke said. 

Cooke’s shot, unlike Chochol’s, found the back of the net, giving the Bobcats a 1-0 advantage in the 80th minute. As the crowd erupted, Cooke sprinted towards the Bobcat bench, celebrating in Ronaldo-like fashion.

“They definitely bring a lot to the game,” Chochol said about the home crowd. “They definitely help us to get in the other teams head I feel like, because they were pretty rattled at some points in the game, and they really help us to keep our heads in the game.”

The Quinnipiac goal forced Canisius to push the ball on the offensive end, something that hadn’t happened all game. 

While the Golden Griffins did get some solid looks at a potential game-tying goal, the Quinnipiac defense stood strong.

Weir, who was already playing with one yellow card under her belt, was given her second yellow in the 88th minute, ejecting her from the game.

‘She’s a good player, but we targeted her,” Clarke said. “That’s statistical analysis, that the longer the game goes on and the more we go one-on-one, the more likely she is to get a yellow card, and then she gets sent off, so why wouldn’t you target her? It’s no different than a player with a fourth foul in basketball.”

With the Golden Griffins down to ten players, they simply just ran out of time and energy.

When the final whistle blew, Quinnipiac players streamed out of the bench area to greet their teammates on the field, as they punched a ticket to their second straight MAAC title.

“It’s over now,” Clarke said. “Already I’m thinking about in my head is Sunday. We’ve done a lot of the scouting and a lot of the paperwork, but I’ll probably be up until like four or five a.m. tomorrow going through everything again.”

The Bobcats will have a two-day break before hosting No. 3 Niagara in the MAAC championship game on Nov. 6, at 12 p.m.