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Historic season continues, Quinnipiac men’s lacrosse grabs first NCAA victory


Photo courtesy Quinnipiac Athletics

By: Sierra Goodwill

The stands overflowed at the QU Lacrosse Turf Complex Wednesday afternoon. The crowd of nearly 1,600 watched a battle between two upstart programs and in-state rivals under clear blue skies.

The Quinnipiac Bobcats ousted the Hartford Hawks 14-9 in an NCAA Tournament preliminary round, Quinnipiac’s first win on the national stage in program history.

“We didn’t really expect this many people to come out,” freshman Foster Cuomo, said. “It brought the entire vibe of the game up, for sure. It’s an unreal feeling.”

A dominating start for Quinnipiac put it ahead 4-1 at the end of the first quarter. Nerves did not play a role, despite the lack of experience.

“Playing tight is not really a problem for us,” head coach Eric Fekete said. “I think in the locker room coming up here we were rockin’ and rollin.’ The guys were dancing in the gym.”

Cuomo is a prime example of converting pressure to motivation. After his behind-the-back, no-look goal in the MAAC Championship made it on to ESPN’s Sportscenter Top 10 Plays, the freshman admitted his confidence was heightened. He netted four goals Wednesday, including three in the third quarter to double Quinnipiac’s lead, 12-6.

“I didn’t really expect any of this to happen,” the midfielder said. “It’s awesome. I didn’t see myself getting here my first year. It’s special, I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

The Bobcats didn’t allow the Hawks to notch more than two unanswered goals. The reigns were in the hands of the hosts the length of the game, thanks to another exceptional showing by Jack Brust between the pipes.

18 saves pushes Brust’s name onto the national leaderboards. He sits at second in save percentage (.588), and seventh in saves per game (11.8).

“Every time I put on my pads I want to put my team in the best position to win. And if I make the saves I’m supposed to and steal a couple I’m not supposed to, then good for us.”

But what is the bitter news to this sweet victory for the Bobcats? A date with top seeded Maryland, which hasn’t lost since March 5, Sunday at 12:30 p.m.

“It’s not intimidating,” Fekete said. “At this point you have to play your best lacrosse. They’re a heck of a club and they’ve been on quite a run. We just have to focus on us. We’re just happy for the opportunity and we’re just going to play the way we play.”

For the players, getting to play the cream of the crop is the ultimate goal.

“You have to beat the best to be the best,” Brust said.

“You grow up watching teams like (Maryland) and you can only dream to be (in) College Park playing them,” Cuomo said. “I couldn’t ask for much more.”

Despite Sunday’s outcome, a MAAC Championship, NCAA Tournament berth, and NCAA win, 2016 has been nothing short of historic.

“We talked a lot about how you need to get into the tournament, you need to win one game, and then from there on anything is possible,” the head coach said. “We’ve gotten through the first two steps and now it’s on to the third.”

Fekete is relying on the game plan he has imposed all season and led him to a perfect conference record of 6-0, to prevail in the first round of the Big Dance.

“If you have the recipe right, you don’t want to change the ingredients or change the way you cook it. You cook it the same way we’ve been cooking it for the past eight weeks.”

Even with the challenge of the No. 1 Terapins ahead, the hopes of Quinnipiac men’s lacrosse are far from shattered.

“We have nothing to lose and everything to play for. We talk about just extending the season as far as we can, it’s a great group of guys, on and off the field, we love being together. Why not us? Why not win a few more?”

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