Bobcats score early and often against Niagara, advance to MAAC title game


Peyton McKenzie

Quinnipiac men’s soccer will have the opportunity to win its second MAAC title in program history Sunday against Iona.

Zack Hochberg, Staff Writer

HAMDEN, Conn – The No. 1 Quinnipiac men’s soccer team used an explosive offensive effort to power itself to a 5-2 victory over No. 4 Niagara in the MAAC semifinals on Thursday.

Senior forward David Bercedo did not waste any time, converting on a one-on-one with Niagara freshman goalkeeper Jamie Barry just 54 seconds in to give the Bobcats a 1-0 lead before most of the fans even had the chance to find their seat.

“We were ready, we started pretty good and we scored so early and I think it was very important to us,” Bercedo said. 

Quinnipiac continued to fire on all cylinders early on, the star-studded front line of Bercedo as well as senior forwards Brage Aasen and Tomas Svecula proved trouble for the Purple Eagle defense.

Bercedo made multiple runs towards the net throughout the first half, including a two-on-one opportunity that the Bobcats couldn’t capitalize on after Bercedo stumbled over the ball.

The Purple Eagles were able to get a response to the early Quinnipiac lead in the 13th minute as senior forward Rodrigo Almeida got his head on a corner kick from senior defender Stephen Hasse to tie the game at one. 

The Bobcats didn’t let the Purple Eagles’ goal disrupt the momentum they had built however. Freshman midfielder Alexander Stjernegaard rang the post on a powerful shot from inside the box in the 17th minute.

Four minutes later, Stjernegaard created a commotion in the box as his free kick came loose.  Sophomore defender Sander Sonsterud’s backheel did not find the back of the net, but Svecula’s follow did, giving the Bobcats a 2-1 lead.

Svecula celebrated in true Ronaldo fashion as his teammates greeted him near the corner flag. 

Bercedo continued to make winning plays for the Bobcats. The captain was dragged down in the box by Niagara freshman defender Alberto Sanchez Cervera, giving Quinnipiac a penalty kick.

On the ensuing kick, Svecula went right and Barry dove left and Quinnipiac had stepped on Niagara’s throats with a 3-1 advantage in the 38th minute. Svecula pointed towards Barry as he grabbed the ball out of net after the keeper had been messing with Bercedo’s ability to place the ball on the penalty spot seconds before. Safe to say Niagara wasn’t happy with Svecula, yelling at him as he jogged back towards midfield. 

“Especially after our last regular season game when we played over there we lost to them, they’ve been really annoying towards the end of the game,” Svecula said. “They’ve been like cocky saying ‘ha ha we beat you guys’ so we came into the game saying we were going to redeem ourselves.” 

The tensions boiled over after the end of the first half, when Stjernegaard and Barrygot into a shouting match as the two were heading back towards their locker rooms. Referees finally handed out yellow cards to both players in hopes of defusing the situation. 

The Bobcats killed Niagara’s MAAC championship dreams early in the second half, as Bercedo, the conference’s leading goal scorer, tallied his second goal of the game on a beautiful feed from freshman forward Ramesh Delsouz, who received a cross from Aasen and then pushed it back over to the Spanish native on the other side of the net for an open goal, increasing the Bobcat lead to 4-1. 

Aasen was given a free kick after a rough tackle from Purple Eagles’ junior forward Asher Barnes, which was promptly met with a yellow card. Aasen’s free kick hit the post, but junior defender Luke Allen scored his first goal of the year on the rebound to put the final nail in the coffin. 

With the game in hand, Quinnipiac was able to give a number of their main players a rest including Bercedo, Aasen and graduate student midfielder Alex Holle. 

The Purple Eagles were able to get one back in the scoring column in the 76th minute when Almeida converted on a penalty kick to cut the Bobcat lead to three.

After the women’s soccer team won the MAAC championship on Nov. 6, the men’s team will have an opportunity to do the same thing just a week later. 

“To see them have that opportunity, after 20-something years, to move on to the NCAA tournament, it’s inspiring and motivating for all of us, I’m sure our guys felt that as well,” Quinnipiac head coach Eric Da Costa said. 

No. 1 Quinnipiac will have a chance to win its first MAAC title since 2013 on Nov. 13, when the Bobcats host No. 2 Iona.