PORTLAND, Connecticut – The near one thousand supporters on-hand for Wednesday's exhibition were gifted a thrilling game held on a night that helped support an even more incredible child.
From the Oakwood Soccer Park, a recreational field wherein hundreds of local youth flock to play the popular game, Quinnipiac started its 2015 season in grand fashion as two second half goals helped propel the Bobcats to a 3-2 come-from-behind exhibition win over instate foe Hartford.
The Wednesday night scrimmage drew interest from all across the area as the instate women's soccer match was the main attraction on a night that served as a fundraiser for Reagan Carey, a local youth in the crowd who also calls the Oakwood Soccer Club home.
Quinnipiac head coach Dave Clarke helped spearhead the effort as Carey, 10, is a local soccer fanatic who is stricken with a rare form of cancer known as Ewing's Sarcoma. Carey plays for the Oakwood Soccer Club while bravely fighting and undergoing chemotherapy.
Clarke, a family friend and neighbor to Carey, helped organize the effort that drew a ravenous crowd that approached 1,000 in total to Wednesday's contest. Donations were collected at the gate and several soccer-themed raffle items were up for bid for the fans on-hand. At the end of the night, after all raffle winners had been announced, the final tally reached an impressive $4,721.33 which will all go towards Carey and her family.
As for the thrilling game, Quinnipiac started its season off with a high octane battle that featured plenty of new faces for the Bobcats as Clarke employed nearly his entire roster that includes a staggering 13 freshmen this season.
Before the opening dust had even settled from the first kickoff, the Bobcats jumped out to the early advantage on the efforts of two unfamiliar faces up on the attacking line. Freshman Nadya Gill (Toronto, Canada) zipped past a Hartford defender and tracked down a ball just outside the box. She one-touched the ball with her right foot and then centered to a wide open Laura Nicholas (Derry City, Ireland) who made the transition from defender up to the left attacking wing for tonight's scrimmage. Nicholas, a defender in her first two years with the Bobcats, made no mistake as she buried the chance to put the Bobcats ahead, 1-0, early.
Hartford then took control for the remainder of the first half as the Hawks scored a pair of goals to take a 2-1 lead heading into halftime.
Coming out of the locker room with an entirely new lineup, Quinnipiac took it to the Hawks for the majority of the second stanza until the Bobcats finally broke through with the equalizer. After some pressure up the near-side sideline drew a free kick from the 35-yard range, Clarke called upon another freshman in Jessica Cascio (Hebron, Connecticut) to make something happen. Cascio, the local product out of Hebron, calmly fired a ball inside the box that found the back of the net after Quinnipiac managed to fight through several Hawk screens to create heavy traffic in front of the Hartford goalkeeper.
The push forward didn't slow as Quinnipiac continued to press until Jess Fontaine (Enfield, Connecticut), the team's leading scorer from 2014, drew the game-deciding penalty with just over five minutes remaining. On a magnificently played ball from 45 yards out, Fontaine beat her defender and was left one-on-one with the Hartford goalkeeper. The Hawk keeper decided to come out and challenge too late as Fontaine was knocked off her feet which was quickly followed by the whistle from the referee. With six career goals to her name, Fontaine knew what to do as she struck her penalty shot perfectly to the left that beat the Hawk keeper and gave Quinnipiac the 3-2 lead and ultimate victory.
Natalia Grodzki (Bartlett, Illinois) played well in net for the Bobcats, making six saves in securing the win for her team.
Quinnipiac returns to action with another exhibition on Saturday, August 15 as the Bobcats welcome another instate foe as Central Connecticut State comes to Hamden for a 10:00 AM start from the QU Soccer Field.
Contact: Maxx McNall; firstname.lastname@example.org