by Pete Janny, Staff Writer
The Manhattan College Jaspers (3-8-4; 2-5-3 MAAC) wrapped up their 2018 season on the evening of Wednesday, Oct. 24 as they hosted the Quinnipiac University Bobcats (6-7-4; 3-3-4 MAAC).
Having already been eliminated from postseason contention, the Jaspers entered the game unbothered by the unsettled drama with the playoff picture and were merely focused on finishing their season in a desirable fashion. Despite the frustrating reality they found themselves in, Manhattan was in a position to play spoiler considering the Bobcats were still not locked into the sixth and final playoff spot for the MAAC tournament. Whether or not that was an added incentive, Manhattan’s inspiring play was a cause for concern for the Bobcats.
This game delivered no shortage of exciting play from both sides in what can best be described as the quintessential MAAC game. The conventional rugged, hard-nosed play that seems to characterize all of the MAAC games was yet again on display in this one as neither team was able to deal the final blow. The Jaspers were provided an early boost in the 19th minute when sophomore midfielder Tia Painilainen scored her first collegiate goal off a feed from senior striker Annie Doerr. Head coach Brendan Lawler was elated for Painilainen, who he believes is a big part of the program.
“She’s brought a lot of maturity and an understanding of the game to our program,” said Lawler in a postgame interview with Go Jaspers. “A very dynamic player on the field but who’s soft spoken and really invites players to learn where she’s come from.”
After the Manhattan goal, the Bobcats stayed the course and were able to equalize in the 34th minute when sophomore defender Hannah Reiter put a head on a ball that found the back of the net. With the exception of Reiter’s goal, Manhattan’s defense was otherwise stout and was able to withstand a Quinnipiac offense that posted advantages in shots (18-15), shots on goal (8-5) and corner kicks (4-3). Manhattan’s defensive prowess all season was due in large part to the team’s consistent effort.
“I’m proud of the effort even though unfortunately there wasn’t a playoff spot on the line for us today,” said Lawler in his interview with Go Jaspers. “It just shows the quality and character of our players and how they kept fighting.”
The stats say it all about Manhattan’s stellar defensive year. This 2018 team conceded a mere 16 goals on the season; a number good for second best in program history behind only the 2015 team’s 14 conceded. In addition, 12 of Manhattan’s 15 games were decided by one goal or less, including nine of their 10 conference games.
The second half included more back and forth excitement but neither offensive attack was able to muster the decisive goal. A big opportunity for the Jaspers came in the 78th minute when Doerr found some daylight in the final third but her strike sailed over the bar.
Meanwhile, senior keeper Kelly DiGregorio ended her career on a positive note as she registered seven saves, with two of them coming at crucial junctures in the second half that kept the score tied at one goal apiece.
The overtime periods proved ineffective in finding a winner as the Jaspers were forced to ultimately settle for a draw in their season finale. DiGregorio acknowledged the fact that things didn’t go according to plan this year, but felt proud going out there one last time with her teammates.
“It was definitely tough to know it was our last game because in the past we’ve been in the playoffs,” said Gregorio. “We knew we were going to come out here and leave everything on the field because we had nothing to lose at this point.”
Doerr, who paced the Jaspers with five points on the season, soaked in all the emotions as she wrapped up her career at Manhattan.
“I think it’s a bittersweet moment but one that we’re able to appreciate because it was the last time we played together as a team,” said Doerr. “Soccer has been in our lives for 18 years but the last four years with these people have been the most important and most special part.”
Lawler, too, was very reflective and proud after coaching this senior class one last time.
“Their impact is huge. Absolutely huge,” said Lawler in his interview with Go Jaspers. “They’ve helped bring us to two MAAC finals but more importantly they’re fantastic people.”
As for the future outlook for the program, Lawler sounded confident that the program will take the necessary steps to hit the ground running next year.
“Sometimes the differences between a second place team and an eighth place team is razor thin so if anything it’s just a motivation to get back to a final and hopefully win a championship next year,” said Lawler in his interview with Go Jaspers. “The best thing is we have a lot of people coming back who will be motivated by the way this season went.”
“The future is very bright,” added DiGregorio. “As usual, they have good players here to carry the team forward in the future.”