By Jamie Palatini
(HAMDEN, Conn.) – Junior forward Samson Maljani’s goal early in the first half proved to be the difference maker, as the Fairleigh Dickinson Knights defeated Quinnipiac’s men’s soccer team 2-0 in the semifinals of the Northeast Conference Tournament, ending the Bobcats’ playoff run. With the loss, the Bobcats end the season with an overall record of 10-5-4. FDU advances to the NEC championship game where they’ll play the fourth seeded Mount St. Mary’s Mountaineers, who upset the top seeded Monmouth Hawks earlier in the afternoon.
Despite the loss, Quinnipiac head coach Eric Da Costa was proud of his team’s effort against a very talented FDU squad.
“These moments are never easy,” Da Costa said. “We wanted more out of today and played well enough to win, but Fairleigh Dickinson is a good team and very deserving.”
The Knights jumped on the board at the 14 minute mark of the first half. Maljani received a pass at the top of the box from teammate Serge Zulu. He spun and fired a shot into the upper right corner that eluded Quinnipiac goalkeeper Freddy Hall to give FDU the 1-0 advantage. The goal was the first that Hall had allowed in over 369 minutes.
With their one-goal lead, FDU sat back and stifled the Bobcats’ offense. Quinnipiac had three shots on goal in the first half, none of which troubled FDU goalkeeper Majdi Zaineh. NEC Player of the Year Graciano Brito was draped with two or three Knights’ defenders every time he touched the ball and was only able two shots on goal.
FDU sealed the fate of the Bobcats with just over 10 minutes remaining in the game. Following a Quinnipiac foul, the Knights had a free kick just outside the penalty box, and made the most of it. Fernando Huthmacher took the free kick and Zulu, whose shot made it past a diving Hall to give the Knights the two goal lead.
With the season ending on Friday, the Bobcats lost more than just the game. They said goodbye to a player who has been one of the most prolific scorers in the NEC in Graciano Brito. Over his four-year career, Brito tallied 40 goals and 92 points, both of which are Quinnipiac records. This year he also broke the school’s single-season scoring record with 18 goals, topping the mark of 17 set by Everson Marciel in 2001.
Although Quinnipiac will lose Brito next season, things aren’t as bad as they may seem for Eric Da Costa’s team. They’ll return the rest of their starters for the 2009 season when they’ll look to build off of this season’s success.
Click here to view the box score from this game.