Quinnipiac Men’s Soccer Defeats Iona 3-2, Crowned MAAC Tournament Champions for First Time in Nine Years

Joe Baske

For the first time since their initial burst onto the MAAC scene, the Bobcats have found themselves at the exact same spot as they started, on the top of the world.

The Quinnipiac Bobcats men’s soccer team defeated the Iona Gaels 3-2 in a win-or-go-home outing that helped the program advance to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2013.

The Bobcats kicked off the match hot and exploded to an early 2-0 lead early in the second half. A goal from Quinnipiac senior forward Tomas Svecula at the 64-minute mark extended Quinnipiac’s lead to three and, in turn, put the game out of reach for the Gaels. The goal gave first-year midfielder Alexander Stjernegaard his third assist of the match.

The game’s final 20 minutes would feature two goals, both coming from Iona. A late-game goal from the Gael’s Elrid Miro at the 88-minute mark brought the coasting Bobcats back to earth, prompting the substitutions of Quinnipiac’s reserve unit as the game reached its most intense point. In the end, the Bobcat’s ability to maintain the lead in those pressure-filled closing minutes granted the team one-way tickets to the NCAA tournament.

“Obviously we’ve had a very good season,” first-year goalkeeper and tournament MVP Karl Netzell said. “I think the main reason is because we’re such a tight group.”

Meanwhile, the game’s favorable outcome left Quinnipiac team captain David Bercedo too excited to speak.

“I’m so happy, I cannot say anything else.” the senior forward said in his predictably brief post-game interview.

The sentiment was reinforced by Quinnipiac head coach Eric Da Costa, who has spent eighteen years at the helm of this team.

“It doesn’t get any better than this,” Da Costa said, still dripping wet from the barrel of water that had been dumped onto his head by a collection of overjoyed Quinnipiac players minutes before his interview.

The championship battle between the MAAC conference’s no.1 and no.2 seeds ended with a celebration of both teams’ senior talents. For Quinnipiac’s eight seniors and two graduate students, the match marked the final game a majority of them will ever play on their home field. The evening match extended the Bobcat’s home-field winning streak to eight, with their last loss in Hamden coming over a year ago in a match against Niagra. 

The tournament’s MVP trophy was awarded to first-year goalkeeper Karl Netzell, whose eight saves enabled the Bobcats to secure the victory in spite of Iona recording five more shot attempts than them on the night.

“I was a little bit nervous there at the end, but I’m happy we got the win,” Netzell said.

Da Costa’s 18-year tenure as Bobcats head coach is highlighted by both of the organization’s two MAAC tournament titles, the first of which came in 2013 in the same year the organization first joined the conference.

The team has failed to replicate their early success in the MAAC conference ever since. From 2016 to 2021, Da Costa’s Bobcats fell in the tournament’s championship game on three separate occasions, with all three being suffered on Quinnipiac’s own home field. 

“We’ve been fortunate enough to be in this position quite a few times,” Da Costa said. “We’ve come short a couple times as well, and I guess that makes this moment today a bit sweeter.”

His words were interrupted by the hollers of team captain David Bercedo and first-year forward Ramesh Delsouz, who were eagerly encouraging him to join them in celebration.

The storied season comes after one of Quinnipiac’s more disappointing campaigns. In 2021, Da Costa’s Bobcats missed the tournament for the first time since joining the MAAC, losing eight of the season’s last 12 games.

“Coming off of last season, [which was] a real letdown, a real disappointment, just in terms of being that one team that didn’t make the playoffs after god knows how many years,” Da Costa said. “For them to bounce back the way they did and win the regular season championship, I couldn’t be more proud of this group.”

Quinnipiac’s first opponent in the NCAA tournament is currently yet to be determined. The tournament’s 16 first-round games are scheduled to take place on Nov. 17, where the Bobcats hope to climb one step closer to the ultimate collegiate trophy.

“We wish we could continue playing [at our homefield],” Da Costa said in anticipation for the tournament. “We’re gonna go somewhere, we’re gonna play a really good team, we’re gonna give our best effort, and hopefully we have the support of our people coming with us.”