The Fairfield University men’s soccer team traveled to Hamden, Conn., where they faced the Quinnipiac Bobcats in the semifinals of the 2021 Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference tournament on Wednesday, April 13. The Stags marched past Saint Peter’s University in the quarter-finals and headed into the matchup with the Bobcats with a 4-2-1 overall record.
The previous meeting between the two teams ended in a double overtime thriller, where the Bobcats stole the show by scoring a late goal to push past the Stags. This meant that the semi-final was anyone’s for the taking, and although the Stags were the underdogs, they came into the fixture looking to advance into the championship.
The game began with both teams feeling each other out, with little being created on either side and little goal scoring opportunities. Fairfield was playing decent soccer, absorbing possession, while also countering effectively. They even got a shot on target in the fourteenth minute of the match.
Although the Stags started the game off strong, the Bobcats were the ones who first appeared on the goal sheet. David Bercedo and Jordan Bennett linked up brilliantly to set up Tomas Svecula in the sixteenth minute, where Svecula finished to put Quinnipiac up one early in the match.
Fairfield tried to fire back, but failed to convert in the final end of the pitch and looked to be completely blocked out by the Bobcat defense. The Stags would have liked to end the half with a goal to tie the game, but still showed great resilience by not giving up and continuing to put pressure on the opposition.
Only 12 minutes into the second half, the Bobcats doubled their lead when Brage Aasen scored his fifth goal of the season, after receiving a lovely ball from Paulo Soares. The Stags did not hold their heads down low, the two-goal edge did not last more than 60 seconds, as Fairfield found its way to the score sheet when Thomas Drillen ‘24 accepted a ball from Joseph Stocchetti ‘24 and rifled home a goal, just 42 seconds later.
The Stags were rejuvenated after this goal, believing they had what it takes to make the unbelievable comeback and win this game. The pressure was relentless, Fairfield required decent saves from Quinnipiac goalkeeper Jared Mazzola, with two shots by Kheireddine Kourdassi ‘22 and Jonathan Filipe ‘22.
Although goalkeeper Gordon Botterill ‘21 let in two goals during the game, he was a leader on the field that allowed Fairfield the confidence to stay within striking distance. Filipe, who didn’t necessarily have a goal or an assist this game, made his presence felt on the pitch and was overall the best attacking player going forward for the Stags, putting shots into dangerous areas and linking with players well.
Fairfield led total shots (11) and shots on target (3) for the game, but failed to score another after their first. They executed the game plan, absorbing Quinnipiac’s attack and then firing back on the counter, some days the ball just doesn’t go in the net.
The Stags put a very valiant effort forward, but in the end it was enough. Fairfield couldn’t find their equalizer by the time the final whistle blew. The Stags finished as the fifth seed in the MAAC and had a very positive year, with an overall record of 4-3-1.
Fairfield would have liked to advance to the final, but at least they know they put their best foot forward every game this season. The Stags should feel optimistic about this season and the upcoming one as well, bringing back a strong core group of players, which entails another exciting season of action in the MAAC.