Men’s soccer drops to Fairfield in first conference match, 1-0

Juliana Nikac and Jake Ziegler

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Photo: Samantha Bashaw

Photo: Samantha Bashaw

For Quinnipiac men’s soccer (1-6-1 overall, 0-1 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference), the theme has been the same recently: consistent hard work resulting in no goals and a loss. That trend continued this afternoon as the visiting Fairfield Stags (5-3-0 overall, 1-0 MAAC) defeated the Bobcats in the first conference match for both teams.

The Bobcats entered this contest off a 1-0 loss to UNH, as well as losing two straight games at home and coming up short three out of their last four. Quinnipiac hasn’t won their MAAC opener since 2014 when they beat Niagara 2-0. Fairfield arrived in Hamden fresh of a 2-0 victory over Temple, which was also their first shutout victory on the season. The Stags are on the winning side of three out of their last four games. Fairfield’s freshman Dan Junior-Bobe came into this first MAAC game leading the Stags with four goals, and he put his fingerprints on Fairfield’s victory.

Quinnipiac’s head coach Eric Da Costa highlighted their inability to get on the scoreboard in recent memory.

“We need our players to be more offensive-minded because we clearly need to start scoring goals,” Da Costa said. “Until we start to score, this bad trend is just going to continue no matter how hard we work.”

The beginning stages started off slow since neither team was able to register a shot on goal until 15 minutes in. Both teams had little scoring opportunities in the first 30 minutes of play. Then, Quinnipiac senior William Pustari set up forward Eamon Whelan perfectly, who had an eye-opening chance within 15 yards of goal. To his dismay, Stag defenders closed in on his scoring lane quickly and booted the ball out of danger.

Soon after, the Stags counter-attacked the other way as England native Ben Wignall made a gorgeous one-touch feed to the streaking Junior-Bobe, who ripped a shot into the back of the cage over Bobcat goalkeeper Chrysostomos Iakovidis. This goal would once again be the difference-maker and the game-winner. It would ultimately be one of three shots on goal Iakovidis faced in the whole game.

Graduate James Doig thinks that the beginning of some of their games has put them at a major disadvantage.

“As soon as we concede the first few minutes, it’s an uphill battle from there,” Doig said. “That’s been really difficult for us to overcome in so many games.”

Although freshman Paulo Soares and forward Rashawn Dally had an immediate response with a chance of their own, Fairfield net minder Gordon Botterill made an instinctive punching save. Botterill was spectacular between the pipes today as he tallied eight saves on 17 shots faced on the afternoon.

Da Costa gives credit to the Fairfield attackers on the goal, but stresses the importance on improving the back-line’s awareness.

“The little combinations is what made their goal work. It’s something we have to work on with our defensive structure.”

When the second half whistle blew, the Bobcats were all over the Stags in the attacking zone, registering 17 total shots by the game’s end. Notably, Whelan had multiple chances of his own in the opponent’s penalty area. However, on several occasions, Fairfield defenders surrounded him. Whelan also had the last and best chance of the game within 10 yards of goal with a clear shooting lane, but he kicked it directly into Botterill’s body, preserving the Stags’ victory. Doig also had a few chances of his own in tight, but most of his shots reached the vicinity of Botterill. The Switzerland native earned his second shutout of the season.

Da Costa thought that the offensive side of things went well all round, except for the most important aspect: scoring goals.

“The offense had some really good looks today. Their keeper made some really good saves, and he was always in the right place at the right time.”

Doig emphasized the significance of a having positive attitude going forward in the season.

“We can’t afford to pity ourselves because as the season goes on, that negativity does us no good for the team,” Doig said.

Quinnipiac will begin a two-game road trip as they continue MAAC play, beginning with a matchup against the Niagara Purple Eagles on Saturday at 2 p.m in Niagara Falls, New York.