Bobcats Stunned in Brisk Burlington Thriller


Credit: QU Athletics

Keenan Mills, Beat Reporter: Quinnipiac Men's Soccer

When looking back at this team in a few years, we will remember a group of young men from wildly different backgrounds coming together to achieve a goal that some had been working towards for the entirety of their college careers. And a freezing cold night in Burlington, Vt.

“We wanted to play when the conditions were really bad. If the conditions were really bad, and they were today, it’s because we are playing when 200 teams are not playing, 198 teams are not playing,” said head coach Eric da Costa. “We should be proud of the fact that we are playing in these conditions, you want to play these games.”

The Quinnipiac men’s soccer team made the journey to snowy Virtue Field Thursday night for the first round of the NCAA men’s soccer tournament. After winning the program’s first MAAC championship since 2013, the gentlemen were searching to spark a historic run. The 8th ranked team in the country in the University of Vermont Catamounts was standing in their way.

After two David Bercedo early goals in both of the team’s MAAC playoff games, the script was flipped when Max Murray of the Catamounts gave Vermont an early lead just five minutes into this cold contest.

The stadium was packed and it was buzzing, but the environment knew the Bobcats weren’t just going to fall over.

Let me paint a picture for you.

Earlier in the season, on Aug. 30, the Bobcats made the exact same trip. I am sure there was no snow behind the goals for this match, it is likely Quinnipiac defender João Pinto had gloves on. The Bobcats won, courtesy of two first-half Brage Aasen goals.

Aasen, who plays his off-season soccer with Vermont Green F.C. which is located right in Burlington, is familiar with the area and the stadium.

When Aasen is doing the speedy step-over moves he does when he’s trying his cheeky heel flick passes. Well, let’s just say it could be a scary sight for Vermont and their fans. And it was.

After a curling shot hit the crossbar left a gasp and a groan throughout the crowd, Aasen would make sure he got one as he put a left-footed shot into the top corner to give the Bobcats their equalizer.

1-1 going into the break.

Throughout the entire game, the Bobcats were going to the ground rather easily and not getting the calls or the crowd’s approval that they desired.

But, after a Vermont dominant start to the second half, Tomas Svecula found himself inside of the Catamount box destined to give Quinnipiac their lead.

He fell, was fouled, and was awarded a penalty kick for his efforts. Svecula knew he was the one meant to take this shot as he stepped over the spot and put a perfect penalty into the right side of the netting, just like in the MAAC championship game.

But, when a great team like Vermont is given chance after chance, they are meant to score one. Of the 12 corner kicks that Catamounts won on Thursday night, the one coming just over two minutes after Svecula’s goal was the stinger.

Noah Egan’s header flying right past keeper Karl Netzell put the Catamounts right back into the game with it tied at two goals apiece.

This game was frozen at this scoreline for the remainder of regulation and most of the two extra-time periods.

With two-time America East goalkeeper of the year Nate Silveira, Vermont was content with their chances if the clock saw 110 minutes and went into penalty kicks. After Quinnipiac failed opportunity here and there, there were under two minutes left to play.

And then, heartbreak for the Bobcats.

A cross went into Quinnipiac’s defensive box and bounced around for a little bit until it fell to the foot of Alex Nagy. He put a perfect shot against the post, falling into the net. The place went bananas. Simultaneously, the Bobcats bodies dropped to the floor in despair.

This team was special, this team had hope. You could see it on the face of the players after the game, and you could see it on the face of da Costa. They came into Vermont fully expecting to get on a plane and head to Dallas early Friday morning.

Confidence. Resilience. This team doesn’t quit.

“They’re ability to bounce back and I have said that a couple of times. For us to be able to bounce back from a disappointing season last year,” said Da Costa. “These guys came back this year and set a new standard, continuing to raise the bar. That’s what you hope to do, continue to raise the bar and make it better and leave it in a better place than what you found it. Everyone who walks out of the program this year should be proud of the fact that they are leaving it in a better place.”

Looking forward, the Bobcats had many underclassmen step up for them throughout the season. Alexander Stjerngaard was selected to the first team all MAAC, and Netzell got second team honors.

This team will hang their heads now knowing that they could have advanced and made a real spark in this tournament. But it is vital to see the clear impact that they have made on the men’s soccer program and Quinnipiac University as a whole.