How Quinnipiac women’s soccer could pull off the upset against Penn State


Daniel Passapera

Quinnipiac women’s soccer has outscored opponents 53-15 this season.

Benjamin Yeargin, Associate Sports Editor

STATE COLLEGE, Penn – It’s no shock that the Quinnipiac women’s soccer team is outmatched entering its game today against the No. 2-seeded Penn State Nittany Lions.

Besides the fact that the Bobcats are in an obviously weaker conference, the Nittany Lions have consistently been ranked in the national top-25 poll and finished the season at No. 6 in the NCAA Women’s Soccer RPI rankings.

“This is a team that’s got a recent national championship under their belts,” Quinnipiac head coach Dave Clarke said. “The coaches have been on national staff and on the World Cups and Olympics … and players who are playing in World Cups.”

But, it’s not hopeless for Quinnipiac. There are things it can do in order to potentially leave Happy Valley with a win, and upset a giant in collegiate women’s soccer.

Pressure the Goalkeeper

Nittany Lions redshirt senior goaltender Katherine Asman has been elite this year. A 0.93 goals against average in 20 games started and a Big Ten All-Tournament Team nod is nothing to sneer at.

But when she’s allowed goals, it’s been from pressure. Both from opposing players closing in on her and from facing many shots.

Take for instance, when Penn State played then- No. 12 Stanford and lost 2-0. The first of two goals that Asman allowed to Cardinal freshman forward Allie Montoya was due to pressure from Stanford freshman forward Lumi Kostmayer.

Sound like anything Quinnipiac has done as of late? In the MAAC Championship versus Niagara, the Bobcats scored a goal in a similar manner. 

Junior forward Courtney Chochol ran towards Purple Eagles freshman goalkeeper Agnes Stenlund who tried to kick the ball out, but Chochol jumped, causing the ball to hit her and trickle into the net. 

Quinnipiac has dominated its opponents in shots thus far this season, nearly doubling them 304-161. The Bobcats have a knack for getting shots on and in net, hence why junior forward Rebecca Cooke leads NCAA Division I in goals with 22.

Whether it’s literally physically pressuring the goalkeeper into making  mistakes, or getting shots on net, Quinnipiac must continue to do this when it goes against a formidable Penn State team.

A Bottom-Up Approach…

Penn State is a dangerous offensive team. A one-on-one style of play and utilizing the midfield to get the ball upfield is the Nittany Lions’ whole game. Redshirt senior Ally Schlegel leads the team with 13 goals. 

For the Bobcats, the burden of stopping Penn State falls on junior goalkeeper Sofia Lospinoso, the back line and a midfield comprising seniors Markela Bejleri and Olivia Scott, along with graduate student Emily DeNunzio. 

“[Penn State] is a really good attacking team, therefore the midfielders are great,” Bejleri said. “They’ve got a lot of pace.”

How do you solve this? The Bobcats cannot open up and allow the Nittany Lions open space,  as Clarke mentioned. It has to press back, different from how the team has played in the MAAC and rely on its strong backs, including senior defender Kayla Mingachos and freshman defender Molly Andrews.

Communication and distribution – meaning how the goalkeeper moves the ball upfield, either from a throw, a pass to a defender or kicking it long – by Lospinoso with the backline is integral to the success of the Bobcats in their playing style and against Penn State. 

“I definitely feel like the communication is key,” Lospinoso said. “I get the ball back from Trigs (graduate student forward/defender Lauren Triglione), and I’m like ‘get out wide, get out wide.’”

Lospinoso’s distribution and the following push upfield could be the difference between a win and a loss against the Nittany Lions.  

… But Don’t Forget About the Front

Who Quinnipiac pushes the ball up to has been hell for most teams it’s faced. Junior forward Courtney Chochol, along with Cooke and senior forward Paige LaBerge are like the gasoline that grows the fire that is the Quinnipiac women’s soccer team. 

“We’ve got good players,” Clarke said. “Our forward line’s not a fluke in terms of the way we play.”

The Bobcats have outscored their opponents 53-15 this season, with Cooke scoring 22 of those goals. What Quinnipiac hopes to do well when it gets the chance is make the defense uncomfortable. It will look to drive back out from the center to defend the wings, leaving the center open for crosses to come in and sneak the ball past Asman. 

The team may get only two to three chances like this per half, so it’s even more crucial that when it does, it capitalizes. 

Final Thoughts

Despite a tough practice schedule with the men’s soccer team attempting to make their own title run, the women’s soccer team comes to Happy Valley to make some noise.

But despite all of the distractions in the build-up to Sunday’s game, the Quinnipiac women’s soccer team is here for one reason.

“We’re here for one job and one job only, to play this game and win,” Bejleri said.