Keys to Quinnipiac’s NCAA Tournament matchup with Vermont


Jack Spiegel

Senior and captain David Bercedo was named to the All-MAAC First Team and the 2022 MAAC All-Tournament team.

Michael Sicoli, Staff Writer

Two years ago the Quinnipiac men’s soccer team watched in disbelief as Monmouth’s Julian Gomez paraded around the Bobcats’ home turf in the MAAC Finals.

Then-Bobcats captain Simon Hillinger sat on his knees, the crowd was quiet, save for Monmouth’s rowdy fans, and a 1-0 game ended Quinnipiac’s hopes at rejoining the national stage. The next year, the Bobcats didn’t even make the playoffs despite a plethora of talent and returnees to the team. 

But 2022 was different. This season challenged the Bobcats like previous seasons always had. Only this year, they got back on the horse and commanded wins like a No. 1 seed should.

The Bobcats could’ve folded and struggled after losing their perennial All-MAAC forward in Brage Aasen to injury for around a month. Or when they lost their very first MAAC game of the season to Siena, or a few weeks after that when senior midfielder Domen Bozic picked up an injury that would sideline him the rest of the season. Hell, even at the end when they suffered a surprising defeat at the hands of Niagara in the team’s last game of the regular season, the Bobcats could’ve slowed down.

They didn’t. The Bobcats showed a level of grit and determination that only comes with a need to win. And they’ll need to show it once more when they visit Vermont today.

For Quinnipiac to come out on top it’s paramount to finish the opportunities they create for themselves. It’s what set the Bobcats apart from Iona in the conference finals, and also what set them apart from the Gaels the first time around when the two tied 1-1.

The Bobcats beat a talented team in Iona by punishing the Gaels’ mistakes and finishing nearly every opportunity that came their way. The hard-working defensive efforts of senior forward David Bercedo — who led the conference and is also third in the country in goals scored — forced a turnover in Iona’s defensive third and led to a Noah Silverman-goal that doubled the Bobcats lead.

It’s arguably Bercedo’s best attribute, and what endears him to Bobcats fans. His tireless pursuit on defense needs to be matched by his teammates. To date, it mostly has been. That effort cannot dip on Thursday night.

Vermont will also be one of the most well-rounded teams Quinnipiac has faced to date, boasting 10 All-League honorees with four Catamounts gracing the first team. One of those include graduate student goalkeeper Nate Silveira, who is tied for ninth in the country in shutouts (8).

Playoff and tournament games come down to finishing chances. With two impressive keepers suiting up in Vermont’s Silveira and Quinnipiac’s freshman Karl Netzell, that will be even more true.

The Bobcats cannot force Netzell to be the hero he was in the MAAC finals, with several saves being otherworldly impressive. There needs to be cleaner communication between Netzell and his backline, as holes were often created where nobody stepped, leading to a scoring chance.

Sophomore defender Sonder Sonsterud has been one of the most impressive players of the Bobcats defense. He flies around the field, winning headers against players far bigger than him. It sets an important tempo, and it’ll be especially important against a Vermont attack boasting the likes of graduate student midfielder Alex Nagy and junior forward Max Murray. Each scored seven goals this year on the way to their third-consecutive first team selections within their conference.

Communication will be key to limit them. Sonsterud and Netzell seemed to be on different pages too often in the MAAC Playoffs, particularly in the finals, as nobody stepped to challenge a surging Elird Mero as the junior defender slotted one in to give the Gaels a fighting chance at the end of the game.

Mistakes like that will need to be cleaned up. Offensively, opportunities will be limited. Quinnipiac must work wingers Aasen and senior Tomas Svecula as they are critical to the Bobcats’ scoring opportunities. Even if they don’t get on the stat sheet, the threat they pose out wide forces a defense to spread a bit thinner, creating holes for a dashing Bercedo to capitalize on.

And with a star in the midfield like freshman Alexander Stjernegaard, who led the MAAC in assists, those runs through the backline will be met with a through ball more often than not.

Playing the Bobcats’ game and maintaining composure as Quinnipiac returns to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013 is critical. The game kicks off at 7 p.m. in Burlington, Vermont.