By Jamie Palatini
(HAMDEN, Conn.) – Last season, Quinnipiac’s men’s soccer team went winless in its final seven games and missed the postseason by a single point.
This season, they did not allow history to repeat itself.
The Bobcats played Monmouth to a scoreless tie on Friday and defeated Mount St. Mary’s 3-0 on Sunday afternoon to earn the third seed in the Northeast Conference tournament this upcoming weekend. Goalkeeper Freddy Hall notched shutouts in both games for Quinnipiac, and senior forward Graciano Brito scored two goals in the Bobcats’ wins over The Mount. Brito also broke the program’s Division I record for most goals in a season with 18, eclipsing Everson Marciel’s mark of 17.
“We’re ecstatic. We’ve worked all year for this. From day one, our goals have been to make it to make it to the postseason and to win the NEC Championship,” Da Costa said. “To wait for it to come down to the last game, and to win in the fashion we did puts the icing on the cake.”
Friday’s game against Monmouth, the top team in the NEC, was a chess match from start to finish. Heavy rains the night before made for poor playing conditions, and while both teams had scoring opportunities, neither squad was able net that elusive first goal.
That put Bobcats in a must-win situation on Sunday afternoon against a Mount St. Mary’s team that was also fighting for a spot in the NEC tournament.
Brito opened up the scoring for Quinnipiac in the 20th minute. Johan Karlhagen made a pass to Brito, who split two Mountaineers’ defenders in the middle of the field and beat Mount St. Mary’s goalkeeper Chris Davis to give the Bobcats the 1-0 advantage.
Freshman Durval Pereira added to that total 14 minutes later with his sixth goal of the season. Pereira stole the ball from a Mountaineers’ defender, then hit a chip shot high over Davis to give Quinnipiac a 2-0 lead. Brito put the nail in the coffin late in the second half. Junior co-captain Shane Recklet found Brito along the sideline, who then moved past a defender and put his shot off in the inside of the far post to score his record breaking 18th goal of the season. Despite scoring twice and grabbing the team record for goals, Brito was quick to acknowledge those around him.
“I have to say thanks to my teammates,” Brito said. “They are the ones who work hard all game, and just because I scored two goals doesn’t mean that I’m the hero.”
Sunday’s 3-0 win was the third straight shutout for Hall and the Bobcats, who have now gone 355 minutes without allowing a goal. Hall now has seven shutouts on the season, and Da Costa has preached defense to his team since day one.
“We said in the beginning of the year, if we’re going to win a championship this year it’s going to be on the backs of our defenders,” Da Costa said.
The NEC is made up of 10 teams, but there are only four playoff spots up for grabs, so every regular season game is critical. Quinnipiac ended up on the short end of things last season. After storming out of the gates to one of the best records in the nation, they fell apart down the stretch and missed the tournament by a single point.
“The NEC is a coin toss, and to get into the tournament is the biggest challenge,” Da Costa said. “Once you get there, you throw all your chips into the pile, and you hope your cards are better than the cards that the other guys are holding.”
As the third seed in the tournament, Quinnipiac is matched up against the second seed Fairleigh Dickinson in the semifinals on Friday afternoon at Monmouth University. If the Bobcats advance, they’ll face the winner of the Monmouth/Mount St. Mary’s game. Quinnipiac’s junior goaltender made it clear where he thinks his team will finish.
“I think we’re going to win it. The way we’re playing right now, I don’t see any team beating us.”
Click here to view the box score from this game.