Penn State ends Quinnipiac women’s soccer’s most successful season in two decades


Peyton McKenzie

Quinnipiac senior midfielder Olivia Scott made the All-MAAC First Team after posting 12 points in 19 games this season.

Benjamin Yeargin, Associate Sports Editor

While the Quinnipiac women’s soccer team’s season ended in disappointment on Nov. 13, its postseason was far from it. A MAAC Championship, regular season title and second NCAA Tournament berth in program history are nothing to take for granted.

The team played exceptionally well in conference post-season play, but was simply outmatched by Penn State, who is set to face West Virginia on Nov. 18, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

Penn State outplayed and outpaced Quinnipiac throughout the whole game. But how? Well, a lot of it comes down to the Bobcats receiving a taste of their own medicine.

The Nittany Lions are an incredibly heavy offensive team, utilizing its midfield to push the ball to the offensive players, creating non-stop shots and chances that break a team down over time.

“(Penn State is) the Big 10 version of us,” head coach Dave Clarke said. “They’re really about their front six.”

Sound familiar? Quinnipiac’s style of play was on par to its NCAA Tournament opposition. Its offensive style led to junior forward Rebecca Cooke leading all of Division I in goals this season with 22, and junior forward Courtney Chochol tying for fourth in the nation in assists.

It’s exactly what the team did well in the MAAC semifinals against Canisius on Nov. 3, and in the MAAC Championship game against Niagara on Nov. 6. The Bobcats outshot the Golden Griffins 17-1 and the Purple Eagles 21-8.

In these two games, all of the Quinnipiac goals (aside from an own goal) came from either Cooke or Chochol.

In order to fully suffocate a team, you have to apply pressure too. Quinnipiac did that via the abundance of shots, but also through literal pressure. Cooke and Chochol ran at the opposing team’s goalkeeper and defense, increasing the chance they would make a blunder and ultimately turn the ball over to the Bobcats.

Conversely, Penn State dominated the Bobcats in shots 25-4 due to its fast, unrelenting style of offense that the Bobcats just couldn’t catch up with.

Throughout the MAAC Tournament, Quinnipaic suffocated Canisius and Niagara’s offense, largely due to a midfield boasting three All-MAAC First Teamers. In both games, Bobcats junior goalkeeper Sofia Lospinoso registered a clean sheet.

Senior midfielders Markela Bejleri and Olivia Scott along with freshman midfielder Emely van der Vliet all were named to the First Team.

“The game is all about good, strong goalkeeper, center back, center mids,” Clarke said. “You need that experience.”

The experience Bejleri, Scott and graduate student defender Emily DiNunzio have was paramount to the success of the team. Without them, it wouldn’t have seen the success it did this season.

Not only did the midfield do a superb job of feeding the ball to Cooke, Chochol and senior forward Paige LaBerge (who earned All-MAAC Third Team honors), but what the midfield also added to this team was a knack for how to play defensively. They knew when to make the aggressive challenge or exactly how to shut down the offensive attack so it didn’t permeate to the defense and Lospinoso.

But against the Nittany Lions, that didn’t happen. The pace of Penn State completely overpowered the Quinnipiac attack and the midfield.

For example, near the end of the first half, Bobcats’ freshman midfielder Madison Alves had the momentum on her side, charging up field toward the Penn State goal. Out of the corner of your eye, you saw Nittany Lions freshman forward Amelia White bolt up field and make the slide tackle on Alves and take the ball away.

Plays like those and the fact that Penn State carved the Quinnipiac’s defense like soap showed how outmatched the visitors were. The Bobcats had little to no response to the Nittany Lions’ attack.

The Big 10 Conference champions faced its mid-major mirror in Quinnipiac, and the gap in skill is the reason the Bobcats got sent home and Penn State is advancing. Cooke registered only one shot on goal against the Nittany Lions.

Happiness and sadness are correlated, the happiness you feel at one point in your life will match or exceed itself in sadness.

In the same postseason that Quinnipiac finally got to hoist the MAAC trophy and feel pure ecstasy for the first time in years, they got dominated in Happy Valley. That’s the deal.