10 Nov How the women’s soccer team’s season started piping hot and ended in a MAAC championship loss – The Quinnipiac Chronicle
The reign of terror continues.
The Monmouth women’s soccer team has been crowned champions of the MAAC five of the last six years. Quinnipiac traveled two and a half hours to the Hawks’ nest in New Jersey on Sunday in an attempt to dethrone the perennially crowned Monmouth team, but were bullied in a dominant 4-0 Hawks win.
Taking on the dynastic Hawks, led by head coach Krissy Turner, at their home stadium was never going to be an easy way for the Bobcats to finish their year. They never had it easy throughout the tournament either, churning out a 1-0 win over Marist in the quarterfinals and then needing penalty kicks to take down Siena in the semifinals.
In Quinnipiac head coach Dave Clarke’s career, the team is 7-24-2 against Monmouth. It would be unfair to say the Hawks specifically have the Bobcats’ number — they have everyone’s number.
Everything looked to be coming together for the Bobcats. Sophomore Rebecca Cooke, who has played nearly every position ever invented and is more of a rover than a defined position player, blossomed into a megastar this year. Sophomore goalkeeper Sofia Lospinoso surprised a lot of people as the rock in the back of the defense and earned the starting role. Graduate student forward Lauren Triglione was finally able to regularly contribute after injury and an internship pulled her away from the game.
This Bobcats roster was complete from top to bottom. There was a healthy mix of upperclassmen and underclassmen at every level of the pitch. The depth at every position allowed for mixing and matching in formations — the Bobcats started the match against Monmouth in a 3-4-3 despite running four-back formations in most of their games.
The list of things that were going right for Quinnipiac goes on. But the most important thing that the Bobcats could boast about going into this year’s tournament was their record. Quinnipiac began the postseason 12-4, the most regular season wins it has had since 2000.
Clarke said earlier this season this campaign was “five years in the making.” The women’s soccer team was building its way up to this year, gaining momentum.
But something happened in this game that was unlike what the Bobcats had done at any point in the 2021 season. They had a massive letdown performance.
“It’s a different type of disappointment … because we haven’t played like that all year,” Clarke said.
Cooke, at some points appearing to be playing banged up as many players typically are at this point in the schedule, found very little space attacking the middle as she did during the regular season. She received little help as she had earlier this year, a testament to the Hawks’ lockdown defense.
The set pieces were few and far between, predictably so given Monmouth’s 4-3-3 formation. Other teams like Marist that drop its wingers into the defense with regularity will concede more fouls, which is the Bobcats’ comfort zone. Senior midfielder Selena Salas has been great on free kicks this year delivering balls into the box, but Monmouth did well to minimize those opportunities.
Fouls actually worked against the Bobcats in the first half, a reason for their 2-0 deficit at halftime. Quinnipiac committed six of them in the first half, mostly at midfield. These “silly fouls,” as Clarke described them during ESPN’s halftime show, turn a possession into a defensive stand in an instant, which forces a team to switch back to the defensive mindset when it is gearing up to make an offensive push.
Salas registered the team’s only shot on target in the 18th minute, a free kick from at least 40 yards away. It was meant to be a cross, but it sailed over everyone in the box and was collected by Monmouth sophomore goalkeeper Rebecca Winslow.
Knowing how Quinnipiac generates a lot of its offense, Winslow was not afraid to come off her line and punch crosses out of the air, which deflated the Bobcats’ attack. They managed four shots, only one of which was a legitimate threat.
In the 35th minute, sophomore forward Courtney Chochol was through on net with the ball coming in over the top through the middle. Chochol, Triglione, Bejleri and freshman midfielder Anna Costello were all behind the defense. Chochol had a step on her teammates, so she took down the through ball while the other three trailed behind to clean up rebounds or loose balls. Chochol tried to flick it over Winslow as she came off her line, but she hit the left post and the rebound leaked out into the 6-yard box.
No one else put a challenge on the ball. It bounced around while everyone helplessly looked on, giving Monmouth the chance to harmlessly clear it. The score was only 2-0, and the halftime whistle hadn’t yet sounded. The game was far from over, but the Bobcats already looked defeated. With Monmouth’s goalkeeper on the ground after making a run at an unmarked attacker and Quinnipiac outnumbering Monmouth 4-3 in the box, the Bobcats couldn’t manage a shot on target.
As diminishing as it may seem, these goals have to go in. The Bobcats took themselves out of it by hanging their heads after going down two goals, even when opportunities stared them in the face. Again, playing on the road at Monmouth is a significant mental hurdle and is probably the last place the Bobcats wanted to be that day. But a 13-4-1 team needs to finish that chance.
The Bobcats just looked tired. It’s a long season, and even the greatest athletes have trouble maintaining fitness for a stretch of several months. But they looked like a shell of their early-season selves, especially in the offensive third, and based on the way they let a loose ball go unchallenged in Monmouth’s 6-yard box, fatigue may very well have been a factor.
Recovering from a loss like this will not be easy, especially looking at next year’s theoretical roster. Some major pieces of this year’s side are seniors and ready to leave, barring them opting into their final year of NCAA eligibility granted after the COVID-19 cancellation. Forwards Gretchen Kron, Emily Loney and Lauren Wendland are all seniors, Salas and defender Lainey Lewis are seniors, and Triglione is moving on.
Time will tell how many of these players return next year, but the potential loss of Salas, Loney and Wendland will be significant. If none return as graduate students, Clarke will need to do some serious shuffling. It won’t be easy to restart the offense that was so potent early in the year.
Clarke has had tougher tests. The Bobcats’ skipper isn’t the winningest head coach in Quinnipiac women’s soccer history for no reason. He navigated the team to success in the MAAC after a transition from the NEC, and a loss in the championship won’t stop him from rebounding next season.
But being downed by four goals is an especially bitter taste. This was meant to be their year. There’s no doubt that the Bobcats will come back next year ready to compete once again, but it’s bound to be a long offseason.
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