Rebecca Cooke Scores Two, Leads Quinnipiac to First Ever MAAC Championship Title


Photo: Jackie Ydrovo

Gabriel Kukulka

On a windy day in Hamden, Connecticut, the Quinnipiac University Bobcats were able to clinch their first MAAC Championship title in program history after defeating the Niagara Purple Eagles 4-0. Two goals from Rebecca Cooke and one goal from Courtney Chochol helped Quinnipiac book their ticket to the NCAA tournament. 

“With the wind, we were sort of debating whether we go with the wind or go against it,” said Quinnipiac head coach Dave Clarke right before getting drenched in water from his players following the win.

The game started out at an incredibly fast pace, with both teams getting chances early in the game. Quinnipiac earned both a corner kick and a free kick just outside the penalty box in the opening two minutes. 

Niagara had its fair share of chances after kick off, most notably a chance by graduate student Lauren DiPietro. The ball was crossed into DiPietro who had space to shoot, but couldn’t get the shot off before being closed down by the Quinnipiac defense. A couple minutes later, Annie Ibey of Niagra hit the left post with a shot just over three minutes into the game.

The free flowing and expansive game was changed at 16:11 when Quinnipiac opened the scoring off a Niagara own goal. Courtney Chochol set in a cross intended for Rebecca Cooke, but the ball never reached Cooke as Ida Miceli slid across the path of the pass. It was a bold attempt to make a major defensive stop, however the ball deflected off of Miceli and went right past a hopeless Agnes Stenlund. 

The own goal caused both teams to play more reserved, and the score remained 1-0 at halftime. Niagara had two shots on goal at halftime, to Quinnipiac’s three. The close shot count is reflective of how the final 30 minutes off the half went, as there was equal possession with limited chances for both sides.

“It was just keep putting them under pressure, they started off pretty strong, but we knew we were tiring them out, it was we had to keep pressing and putting them under pressure,” Quinnipiac senior Olivia Scott said.

This was a message well received as the second half was dominated by Quinnipiac, where they broke through scoring three unanswered goals. 

The first goal of the half for Quinnipiac came at 58:34, when Quinnipiac leading goal scorer Rebecca Cooke tapped in a loose ball inside the Niagara 6-yard box to make the score 2-0. Cooke’s scoring wasn’t done there, and in the 79th minute she found an opening in the Niagara defense, securing her brace on a breakaway and putting the game out of Niagara’s reach. The goals were Cooke’s 21st and 22nd goals of the season, a remarkable count.

“It’s all the hard work from everyone’s freshman year, everyone’s sophomore year, from junior year, from senior year … from preseason this year we knew we had [what it takes] to win the MAAC,” said Cooke.

Courtney Chochol also scored for Quinnipiac. She pressed Stenlund who kicked the ball straight into Chochol, and then saw the ball deflect off Chochol and bounce straight into the Niagara net.

Niagara had two 3-1 wins in the playoffs to reach the Championship game, including an impressive away win over the No. 2 seed Fairfield.

“Two things that we wanted this season and it took the final,” Clarke said. “We wanted an own goal on the ball played across the goal by a player sliding in, we got that today. And we wanted one goal where we closed down the back pass on the goalkeeper, and we got it today, in the last game of the season.”

Quinnipiac additionally reached its goal of winning a MAAC Championship victory on what was its third trip to the match. In the Championship game last year Quinnipiac fell to Monmouth University 4-0, but the story and scoreline for them this year was reversed as they cruised past Niagara by the same score of 4-0. 

Quinnipiac and its star powered offense have now earned a chance to display themselves in the NCAA Tournament where the Bobcats await to find out their opponent and venue.