Women’s Soccer

Women’s soccer handed first loss, falls to Harvard

By Angelique Fiske, QBSN Publishing Editor

The Quinnipiac women’s soccer team began its season better than any other in its history, but the Harvard Crimson came into Hamden determined to end the Bobcats’ undefeated ways.  The Crimson succeeded, defeating the Bobcats 3-0 Wednesday afternoon.  The loss is the first of Quinnipiac’s season, dropping its record to 4-1-1.

“You are what your record says you are,” Quinnipiac head coach Dave Clarke said.  “This was a good wake up call.”

The Crimson sounded the alarm early in the first half.  Alika Keene settled the ball in Bobcat territory and sent it into the crowded box.  Elizabeth Weisman, in spite of being surrounded, trapped the ball and turned it around, maneuvering around defenders and tapping it by a diving Jill Kelley (Simsbury, Conn.).  This 1-0 Harvard advantage marks the first time this season the Bobcats trailed in a game.

The first half remained quiet with failed offensive endeavors by both teams, Quinnipiac notching only two shots on net and Harvard eight.

Harvard’s second goal came as solo effort by Lauren Varela.  Not long after, Kelley was pulled in favor of freshman keeper Natalia Grodzki (Bartlett, Ill.).

Despite the fresh legs in net, the Crimson put the final dagger in the hopes of a Bobcat comeback in the waning minutes of the game.  Emily Mosbacher earned her first goal of her career, taking a Catherine Coppinger offering to the left corner.

Clarke acknowledged the struggles the team faced in preparation for this game, and though they were not unconquerable, the weaknesses were exposed.

“We knew that there was going to be gaps,” Clarke said. “We might have got away with it against other teams, but when you play these teams that’s not going to happen.”

Quinnipiac next hits the road against Siena on Sunday, Sep. 16 at 1 p.m.  While a non-conference matchup, the Bobcats are treating it with just as much severity as a Northeast Conference game.

“You really don’t want to be going into the NEC on the back of two losses,” Clarke said.

The game at Siena serves as Quinnipiac’s final non-conference game of the season. With that, there is little room for error as it begins the NEC journey that will make or break its season.

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Bobcats lose to Lehigh in physical, controversial contest

By Jon Alba, QBSN Staff Writer

After a frustrating performance against Lehigh on Friday evening, the Quinnipiac Bobcats women’s soccer team dropped their fourth match of the season, losing 4-2. The loss adds to a rough start for the Bobcats (0-4-1), as they begin to head into the main stretch of their season.

The Mountain Hawks (2-2-1) aggressively attacked the Quinnipiac zone from the start, jumping off to a 2-0 lead after near-consecutive goals from midfielder Geena Pepe (19″) and forward Murphee Greeley (20″). Greeley would later add another goal in the 51st-minute as well.

Quinnipiac mustered a well-orchestrated score off the foot of junior Shauna Edwards (20″), but after falling behind another two points, only managed a late goal from senior Furtuna Velaj (85″).

The 19 shots on goal by the Bobcats was their largest total on the season but was matched but a forceful Lehigh showing. Tempers brewed over the course of the contest, as players came to blows with one another in both verbal and even minor physical confrontations.

While the referees did call 19 fouls on the Mountain Hawks, as opposed to seven for Quinnipiac, Bobcats head coach Dave Clarke expressed his unhappiness with the officiating.

“Some of those bizarre referee decisions…they offer no protection to the players,” said a visibly upset Clarke. “You bring a talented player like [Velaj] into Quinnipiac, and you offer her no protection.”

Clarke’s comments came after Velaj was nearly forced out of the game after an aggressive slide-tackle in the first half almost injured the midfielder.

Even after being rattled by the two quick goals early on, Quinnipiac goalkeeper Jill Kelley settled down to close the half. However, the Lehigh offense proved too powerful, as they tired down the Bobcats’ defense and forced two more past her. In total, Kelley finished the night with eight saves.

“You can’t put all the blame on our goalie, as her defensive mates did do the job,” added Clarke.

Quinnipiac will have to be ready to move on quickly, as it faces Holy Cross Sunday at home at 1:00 p.m. Even with the controversial officiating clouding Friday’s loss, the coach was clear in his message moving forward.

“Bottom line is, you can’t blame the referees for everything. We need to improve the defensive effort, and we have to put away our shots next time.”

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Coxon inducted into Conn. Soccer Hall of Fame

By Angelique Fiske, QBSN Staff Writer

Steve Coxon, the assistant coach of the women’s soccer team, speaks soccer fluently.  He knows how to convert from a player to a coach to a recruiter.  His knowledge of the sport is unquestionable and as of Jan. 28 so is his legacy.  Coxon was one of a class of seven to be inducted into the Connecticut Soccer Hall of Fame at the Marriot Hotel in Farmington.

“I was delighted. It’s an honor to be recognized by the soccer community and my peers,” Coxon said of the recognition.

Even though Coxon has only been with Quinnipiac for six seasons, his relationship with head coach Dave Clarke goes back to his beginning as a Connecticut soccer coach.

“I have known Steve for 24 years, so I know the amount of work he has put into the game at the youth, high school, college and professional levels,” Clarke said.  “He has made a lot of sacrifices both personally and professionally, so the Hall of Fame recognition is a validation for all that he has done and accomplished as a player, coach and businessman.”

Aside from his time coaching the Bobcats, Coxon put a dent in the world of youth soccer when he became a co-founder of the Connecticut Football Club, founder of soccerhead.com, a website designed for recruitment and a co-owner of Hamden’s CFC Arena.

At the high school level, Coxo coached the Farmington girls’ team a No. 5 national ranking.  He also earned the Girls High School Coach of the Year in 2004 sandwiched between two state championships in 2003 and 2005.

On the field, Coxon spent time with Central Connecticut State and the Connecticut Wolves pro soccer club.

Just in case Coxon’s résumé seemed short an achievement, he was recently named the President of the new Professional Developmental League team CFC Azul.

It is no surprise that with his experience in playing and coaching, Coxon has fulfilled his role at Quinnipiac successfully.  However, Clarke credits this to something more than just his talent and knowledge of the sport that brought the pair together.

“The most important thing in an assistant coach is loyalty,” Clarke said. “Steve has that in abundance.”

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Velaj makes international debut

By Mike Auletta, QBSN Staff Writer

When the final whistle blew on Nov. 4, the Bobcats 2-0 home victory against Bryant wouldn’t just mark a highlight of a season that fell short of expectations with the team finishing 5-10-1 overall and missing the playoffs. It would also mark the end of a storied career by one of the most distinguished players in Quinnipiac women’s soccer history.

Senior Furtuna Velaj (Stamford, Conn.) ended her career with a total 94 points, tallying 39 goals and multiple Northeast Conference first-team honors.

“Coach Clarke is one of the best coaches I have ever had. He has helped me become more of a multi-dimensional player,” Velaj said. “I have transformed from a goal-scorer into a creator and a team player.”

Velaj’s arduous journey did not start at Quinnipiac. The 21 year-old of Albanian-descent emigrated from the country of Kosovo during the Kosovo conflict in 1999. Velaj left a lot behind, but there were two things she maintained: her family and the game of soccer.

And just like her preface, Velaj’s epilogue to a fabulous soccer career will not cease at Quinnipiac.

On Nov. 6, just two days after her final game with Quinnipiac, Velaj reported to Albania to play for the Albanian Women’s National Team. She was informed of the opportunity in the spring while studying abroad in London for the semester. While training with the Millwall Ladies Football Club in London (member of the FA Women’s Premier League) to prepare for her final season at Quinnipiac, Velaj was approached by one of the coaches who was impressed with her playing ability.

“One of the coaches at the camp was a coach for Team Albania, and he really liked the way that I played. I ended up missing camp because I was injured, but the coach stayed in contact with me,” she said. “A few months later, the head coach for Team Albania called me and invited me to play with the team.”

The women’s program for Team Albania, being fairly new, took a while to get situated. The team’s first International Friendly was supposed to take place in September and didn’t happen. October came with the same expectation, and again, there was no International Friendly. Finally, Albania was set to play their first International Friendly against neighboring Macedonia on Nov. 10.

Velaj departed the United States and arrived in Tirana, the capital of Albania, four days prior to the match. Once in Tirana, Velaj preceded to the summer resort town of Pogradec, Albania, the site of training one hour away from the Macedonian venue that would host the International Friendly. The days leading up to the match consisted of the same schedule: wake up, breakfast, train, lunch, train some more, and finish with dinner. Although Velaj grew close to all of her teammates during this short time, she found it easier to relate to those who spoke English including her roommate Nora, a 19 year-old playing for a second league team in Sweden.

The close bond the team created in the short time they spent together paid off on Nov. 10. Team Albania defeated Team Macedonia 4-1 in their first International Friendly. In the 51st minute, with Team Albania up 1-0 and the game still in reach for Team Macedonia, Velaj found herself one-on-one with the Macedonian goalkeeper. With pressure mounting, Velaj did what she does best by blowing the ball past the keeper and putting Team Albania up by two. Although scoring in her first International Friendly was surreal, Velaj’s attention was corralled by something else.

“The kids watching the game were singing the Albanian songs that I grew up hearing and singing,” Velaj said. “It was an amazing experience.”

The two teams concluded the day with a dinner together where the coach for Team Macedonia insisted on a rematch in the near future, a rematch Team Albania gladly accepted. Team Albania is focused on setting up more International Friendly’s for the spring, including a match with Greece who is ranked 57th in the world by FIFA. Velaj looks forward to continuing her playing career with Team Albania.

“For me to have this opportunity, it gave me the motivation to continue playing soccer as well as great experience,” Velaj said.

Velaj returned to the United States on Nov. 12. She hopes to pursue a professional soccer career and is actively searching for opportunities. Ideally, she would love to play in the United States, host of the top women’s play in the world but would go to Europe and play in countries including Germany, Sweden, and England where she can focus more on player development.

“Soccer is what I want to do. I love the game, and I want to continue as long as I can,” Velaj said.

Velaj is expected to graduate this May with a degree in political science and said if soccer doesn’t work out in the long run, she would like to pursue law school.

Furtuna Velaj’s unique and indispensable abilities as a player, teammate, and overall person will be missed at Quinnipiac, but will certainly be utilized as she continues her journey towards becoming a professional athlete.

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Bobcats deliver on Senior Day against Bulldogs

By Ben Dias, QBSN Staff Writer

After two tough losses on the road to Northeast Conference foes, Mount St. Mary’s and Central Connecticut State, the Bobcats were looking for a win to close out the season.  On senior day against Bryant, the Bobcats managed a win, defeating the Bulldogs 2-0. The Bobcats (5-10-1, 4-6 NEC) end their season with their first victory since earning a road win at Monmouth on Oct. 21. Bryant closes out their season with an NEC record of 4-5-1 and 8-8-3 overall.

After coming into the 2011-12 season, the Quinnipiac women’s soccer team had high aspirations of contending for a Northeast Conference title. However, an up and down season in which the Bobcats lost many close games, resulted from their struggles on offense in which they were shutout in six of their 10 losses, including three of their six NEC losses.

The Bobcats came out on senior day with a strong offensive attack that was pushing the ball and creating scoring chances against the Bulldog defense.  Juniors Chacha Naito (Oneonta, N.Y.) and Paula Kennedy (Grosse Pointe Woods, Mich.) led the team’s effort. The two defenders each netted goals late in the first half.

At the 40-minute mark, Naito scored her first goal of the season as she sent a lob-shot over the head of Bulldogs goalkeeper Kelsi Jacob. Senior captain Furtuna Velaj (Stamford, Conn.) sent a lob pass off of a free kick just outside the box to the feet of Naito, who corralled the free ball and chipped it in over Jacob’s head.

Forty-one seconds later, the Bobcats increased their lead to two goals. Kennedy scored her first goal of the season as she ran down the left side of the field, receiving an outlet pass from defender Beck Kiting. As soon as Jacob came out of position outside the net, Kennedy blasted a low-line drive into the right corner for the 2-0 lead.

While senior goalkeeper Jill Kelley (Simsbury, Conn.) earned her second shutout of the season, Bryant found chances in the second half, as they started to push the ball into the attacking zone. Both of Bryant’s scoring chances that were deposited into the net were eventually whistled back.  The goals were negated due to two interference calls on Bryant players in the box on Kelley, as they were pushing her as she tried to play the ball.

With the much needed win to silence a rocky season in which the Bobcats had hopes of an NEC playoff run, several Quinnipiac seniors were honored on senior day for their contributions and accomplishments to the soccer program over their careers.

Highly-talented forward Furtuna Velaj who accumulated 93 points over her four years will be graduating, as will Kyla Miles (Newtown, Conn.), midfielders Chelsea Smith (Terryville, Conn.) and Kristina Del Mistro (East Williston, N.Y.), and goalkeeper Kelley, who will be eligible to play next season after missing her sophomore season due to an injury.

Quinnipiac outshot Bryant 14-12, including 9-7 in the first half. Kelley earned three saves for the Bobcats while Bryant’s Kelsi Jacob and Lauren Viverito, who replaced Jacob at the end of the second half due to an apparent injury, had four saves overall.

Quinnipiac head coach Dave Clarke was pleased with the win on senior day and is looking forward to next year.

“You don’t always get an opportunity in competitive games this late in the season, to look at style of play, formations for next year,” Clarke said. “In the first half, we looked at lineup and the idea of pressing and putting them under pressure, and it worked.”

While happy with the win, Clarke expressed disappointment over the team’s five-win season and not being able to play for an NEC title.

“In terms of where we are, we didn’t expect to have the season be over,” Clarke said. “This team was settled to win the championship and the NEC’s, and to go out the way we have with the record we have, it was a massive underachievement.  I’m happy we didn’t lose at home on senior day, but it’s almost false consolation.”

Quinnipiac ends the season with a 5-10-1 overall record and 4-6 in the NEC.  The team looks forward to what 2012 will have in store.

“As soon as we walk off the field 2011 is over and 2012 starts,” Clarke said.

Together Clarke and the Bobcats hope to learn from this tough season, improve next year, and continue to achieve their goal of winning the NEC.

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Bobcats silenced at home; shutout by Wagner

By Giovanni Mio, QBSN Staff Writer

The Quinnipiac Bobcats women’s soccer team lost their game against Wagner College 1-0 in Hamden on Sunday.

Quinnipiac (3-7-1) gave up the only goal of the game in the first half (9-5-2), a half full of missed opportunities for both teams.  On Wagner’s first corner, Amanda Sieferman missed a header in the box.  Wagner kept on shooting but they were just not able to connect on any of them.  Then as time was expiring, a shot by Seahawk senior Kaitlyn Llewellyn was misplayed by Bobcats goalie Jill Kelley (Simsbury, Conn.) as it tipped off her gloves and slowly rolled into the net.  The Bobcats went into the half with only five shots and three corners under their belt.

“Well you got to play the wind as a factor,” said Bobcats head coach Dave Clarke.  “They played with the wind and that’s all.  They were just very direct.”

The second half of the game was a continuation of missed opportunities.  This time, Quinnipiac started to get chances to tie the game.  Nine minutes into the half, Bobcats junior Shauna Edwards (Southington, Conn.) missed a volley right in front of the Seahawks net.  With 25 minutes left to play, Furtuna Velaj (Stamford, Conn.) lost control of the ball as she was about to take the shot.  Two minutes later, Velaj had an open shot and missed the net.   The Bobcats just were not able to capitalize on the opportunities.

“You’re just hoping that you get a little luck.  Well you know we haven’t had a lot of luck in any of these games,” said coach Clarke.

The Bobcats are now 2-3 in the NEC and 7-4-2 all-time against Wagner College.  Their next game will be a make-up NEC game against Long Island at the Quinnipiac Soccer Field in Hamden on Tuesday, Oct. 18.

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Red Flash Defeat Bobcats 3-0

By Angelique Fiske, QBSN Staff Writer

After winning their last two conference matchups against Robert Morris and Fairleigh Dickinson, the Bobcats couldn’t pull off a third win as they fell to the Saint Francis (PA) Red Flash 3-0 on Sunday.  This game makes for the fourth time the Bobcats have been shut out this season and the first time they’ve been shut out by a Northeast Conference opponent.

With this, the Bobcats drop to 2-2 in the conference and 3-6-1 overall, and Saint Francis advances to 3-0-1 in the NEC and 7-5-1 overall.

The Bobcats’ goalie Jill Kelley made three saves in the game while her counterpart Brianna Butcher had six stops of her own.

The Bobcats literally handed the Red Flash the first goal of the day, as it was ruled an own goal in the 35th minute of play.  Less than ten minutes passed when Mackenzie Walter took matters into her own hands, sending an Aryn Askin offering to the back of the net.

Despite having opportunities offensively, the Bobcats just couldn’t manage to convert shots into goals, outshooting the Red Flash 16-12.  After Alecia McNiff set Tesa McKibben up for Saint Francis’s third goal on the afternoon early on in the second half, the Red Flash domination became undeniable.

“When you give any team a two goal lead, you give them time to sit in and defend,” said Quinnipiac head coach Dave Clarke.  “The third goal came in so early in the second half; we never got a chance to regroup.”

Quinnipiac senior Furtuna Valej remains on the brink of joining the 100-point club with 91 career points.  Valej has already picked up 11 points on the year.  Her effort was clear on Sunday, taking seven shots, two on net, but failed to convert any of those into goals.

The Bobcats have two more NEC matchups next weekend, giving them a chance to regain a winning conference record.  They play host to Long Island on Friday, Oct. 14 and Wagner Sunday, Oct. 16.

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Kiting’s game-winner propels Bobcats to first win

By: Ben Diaz, QBSN Beat Writer

 The Quinnipiac women’s soccer team came into Sunday’s game against Holy Cross winless, with four consecutive losses.  Sophomore defenseman Beck Kiting (Canberra, Australia) put her little used offensive talent to good use, scoring the game-winning goal in the 78th minute.

The lone goal gave the Bobcats a scrappy 1-0 shutout victory, earning their first win of the season. With the win the Bobcats improve to 1-4-1 overall while the Crusaders drop to 2-5 on the season.

“It was important to break the streak,” said head coach Dave Clarke. “We have been in this position the last couple of years where we haven’t started well results wise. It was probably our worst performance of the season and we won.”

After a foul, Quinnipiac goalkeeper Jill Kelley (Simsbury, Conn.) took a free kick near midfield. With several players from both teams battling for the ball, the ball bounced around in the box and found its way to Kiting, who buried it past Holy Cross freshman goalkeeper Carly McCabe.

“This time we decided to have Jill Kelley take the kick,” Kiting said. “It was a bouncing ball in the box. I tried to get on the end of it and see what happened.”

The Bobcats realized after several hard fought games they had to claw one out.

“It feels great, trying to get our first win of the season,” Kiting said. “We were pretty disappointed with our performance on Friday against Lehigh and we are happy to get the win today.”

Each team had scoring opportunities but stellar goaltending by the Bobcats’ Kelley and Crusaders’ McCabe prevented either team from capitalizing until Kiting’s lone goal.

The Bobcats had opportunities in the first half but could tally any goals. Junior forward Shauna Edwards’ header off of a cross from senior midfielder Furtuna Velaj was denied by McCabe, as she made a sprawling save to keep the game deadlocked.

Holy Cross had a scoring chance develop when Kelley saved midfielder Danielle Wasserman’s shot from the top of the box. Kelley made a game saving play deflecting the ball with her outstretched fingertips over the cross bar and out of play.

Kelley made three stops in net for the Bobcats, while McCabe saved three shots for Holy Cross. Despite the loss, the Crusaders outshot the Bobcats 13-10.

The Bobcats return to the field when they travel to Sacred Heart for their first Northeast Conference game of the year on Friday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. at Campus Field in Fairfield, Conn. The Bobcats do not return to their home turf until Oct. 7 against Robert Morris.

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