Quinnipiac dominates Niagara, claims first MAAC title in program history


Daniel Passapera

Quinnipiac women’s soccer brought home its first MAAC title since joining the conference in 2013 with a 4-0 victory over Niagara Sunday.

Zack Hochberg, Staff Writer

HAMDEN, Conn – The Quinnipiac women’s soccer team used an explosive three-goal second half in front of a packed stadium to win its first MAAC title in school history Sunday.

After the team won the MAAC regular season title on Oct. 26, Quinnipiac head coach Dave Clarke said the team had three objectives when they started the season. 

“81 days ago we put three goals on the board, today we accomplished two of them… No. 1 seed in the MAAC, six shutouts, and everyone has the third goal in common (winning the conference tournament),” Clake said.

On Sunday, the team accomplished that third goal.

Niagara came out with a lot of energy, generating offensive opportunities and using Quinnipiac turnovers to counter-attack. The Purple Eagles almost opened the scoring in the 4th minute when graduate student forward Annie Ibey took an explosive shot toward the Quinnipiac goal but was denied by the post to keep the game scoreless. 

Quinnipiac star junior forward Rebecca Cooke took her shot at breaking the tie early but was stopped by Niagara freshman goalkeeper Agnes Stenlund.

The Bobcats continued to prowl for goals. They got their first of the day in the 16th minute. Junior forward Courtney Chochol tried to connect with Cooke on a cross in the box, but instead the ball found the shin of a sliding Purple Eagle graduate student defender Ida Miceli, redirecting it into the net for a 1-0 Bobcats lead. 

“We knew after one goal, they would just keep coming, and that’s exactly what happened,” Quinnipiac senior midfielder Olivia Scott said. 

With an advantage on the scoreboard, Quinnipiac settled into its game on the defensive end. The back line was able to control pace and possession for the following 20 minutes of the half, allowing the Bobcats to head into the break with a one-goal lead.

While the first half was evenly played, with both teams registering five shots and one corner apiece, Quinnipiac exploded in the second half.  

Junior forward Rebecca Cooke puts one past Niagara freshman goalkeeper Agnes Stenlund. (Daniel Passapera)

Quinnipiac continuously pushed the ball on offense. Cooke thought she had made the game 2-0 in the 55th minute when she found the back of the net but was ruled offside.

Four minutes later, Cooke didn’t let another opportunity go to waste. The nation’s leading goal scorer got her foot on a loose ball in the box off a header from Chochol that connected with the post, pushing the Quinnipiac lead to two.

The second goal had Niagara on the ropes. The Purple Eagles backline was starting to fall apart, sloppily clearing balls and getting beat one-on-one, letting the Bobcats create opportunities at will.

“We just stuck to how we play, and how we play destroys teams,” Cooke said. 

The Bobcats got their knockout blow in the 67th minute on another tough mistake from Niagara. Purple Eagles freshman goalkeeper Agnes Stenlund took a pass in her own box, but when she tried to kick it out, it deflected off Chochol’s leg and into the net for a 3-0 Quinnipiac lead. 

“(There were) two things that we wanted this season and it took (until) the final,” Clarke said. “We wanted an own goal on the ball played across the goal and a player sliding in, we got that today, and we wanted one goal where we closed down the back pass and the goalkeeper and we got it today.”

Cooke put an exclamation point on her tournament MVP campaign, scoring her second goal of the game as she faked out the keeper in the 79th minute for a 4-0 advantage. 

Quinnipiac fans celebrate the Bobcats MAAC title win. (Daniel Passapera)

The crowd gave the starters a standing ovation when they were substituted from the game as time ran down.

“It just shows how much the school supports us, how much our families support us, everyone out here, it was really nice and we got a lot of energy out of it,” Scott said.

When the final whistle blew, the Bobcats, including some members of the men’s soccer team, rushed the field to celebrate their first MAAC championship. 

The Bobcats donned dark-blue shirts that read ‘we are one’ on the back throughout the postseason, and the idea that this team is one family was evident as the trophies were handed out on Sunday. 

“It doesn’t matter if you’re the first player on the field or the last player on the field, coaches, athletic trainers, everyone, we’re all one family, one champion,” Cooke said. 

The victory sends Quinnipiac to their first NCAA Soccer tournament since 2000. 

“We set a bunch of goals in the beginning of the year, and obviously this was the end goal, and it just feels really good to come through with it and all the hard work,” Scott said. 

The NCAA selection show will be held on Nov. 7 where Quinnipiac will find out what seed it will be and its opponent in the NCAA tournament.