Simon Hillinger scores two goals, Quinnipiac defeats Marist 3-2

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Simon Hillinger scores two goals, Quinnipiac defeats Marist 3-2

Dylan Fearon

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By: Dylan Fearon 

Saturday was senior day for five Quinnpiac men’s soccer players, but a freshman stole the show.

German midfielder Simon Hillinger scored both the game-tying and game-winning goals against Marist, with the latter coming in double overtime to win 3-2.

It was the rookie’s first two goals of his career, and they came in the most important game of the season.

“The first goal I got the ball and I tried to hit it and I hit it perfectly,” Hillinger said. “Yesterday I practiced (scoring that goal). Then the overtime winner, I don’t know what went in my head but I just stopped the ball and pinged it in and I was so happy.”

It felt like Quinnipiac’s day from the start.

Just 91 seconds in, a Jeppe Haehre header off of a free kick found the back of the net. Coming off a 1-0 win at Manhattan last week, it seemed that the Bobcats were well on their way to three more points.

But Marist had other plans. Specifically, Allen Gavilanes.

Coming into the game, the freshman midfielder was tied for fifth in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference in goals (6) and second in points (19). He bolstered those numbers Saturday, scoring both of Marist’s goals to give the Red Foxes a 2-1 lead in the second half. The first came off a pass into the box that Gavilanes slipped by Quinnipiac goaltender Chris Iakovidis, and the second was a finesse shot over the diving Iakovidis from 12 yards out.

Then, it was the Hillinger show.

Down a goal with just over seven minutes left, Quinnipiac made a push into Marist’s 18-yard box. The Red Foxes tried to clear, but the ball deflected off of the referee and eventually landed at Hillinger’s feet about 20 yards out.

The freshman did the rest.

“I hit the ball and I was like ‘alright, that one was good.’ Then it went in and I was completely happy,” Hillinger said.

Right-footed Hillinger, and top right corner. There was no shot for Marist goalkeeper Mark Rajovic.

After 90 minutes, the game was tied and sent to overtime, and eventually double overtime.

Once again, Hillinger found himself at the right place at the right time.

Just six yards out, he received the ball after a great pass from Matthew Taylor. Hillinger paused, took his time and slipped the ball in the left corner to win the game.

“We had a really good opportunity for Simon to find some good pockets,” Quinnipiac head coach Eric Da Costa said. “He’s one of our smarter players in our squad in terms of how he understands the game and how he reads it and he did exactly that. He put himself in great places and made excellent decisions. The first goal was out of this world. The second goal for me is even better.”

The Bobcats head coach marveled at the freshman’s poise.

“To be in that position, and he gets a great pass in from Matt,” Da Costa said. “But to slow your mind down in that kind of scenario and not rush it and just smash a ball over. I love his first goal…but his second was pure class.”

This game also had MAAC Tournament implications, as Quinnipiac and Marist were tied for the sixth and final playoff spot.

Now, The Bobcats are three points clear of the Red Foxes.

“Huge game,” captain James Doig, who picked up his program record 35th career win, said. “Every game moving forward is massive. We have to be picking up points and we’ve got to be winning.We needed to pick up the three and that’s what we’ve done today.”

Quinnipiac controlled the pace of the game and had the majority of the big chances, totaling 25 shots, including 13 on goal.

“We were the better team,” Doig said. “We were pushing for it all second half and into overtime. If anyone was going to get the winner, it was us.”

With three games to go in the regular season, the Bobcats remaining opponents are all below them in the MAAC standings. Quinnipiac is still in sixth place, but three points clear of seventh place Marist and just three points shy of Manhattan for second.

For Da Costa, Saturday was one of the classic conference battles between two teams fighting for a playoff spot.

“When you try to describe what MAAC games are like or league games are like, I think all you have to do is replay that game. Simon was just tremendous with his two goals today, and that was the difference,” Da Costa said.

Quinnipiac has now won three of its last four games and will look to continue to climb the MAAC standings next Wednesday, as the Bobcats pay a visit to Loudonville, New York to face Siena.