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Courtney Chochol shines in senior season, leads Bobcats to back-to-back MAAC titles

After a highly successful 2022 campaign, which saw the Quinnipiac women’s soccer team post a record of 15-3-1 en route to a national tournament bid, the program found a way to replicate its winning ways in the 2023 season. The team went 13-4-1 and repeated as conference champions, going undefeated in Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference (MAAC) play this year at an undefeated and impressive 9-0-1 record.

During the 2022 season, junior forward Rebecca Cooke dazzled for the Bobcats, scoring 22 goals and assisting on seven others. Cooke’s 22 goals was good enough to lead all of Division I soccer in scoring, and she played a pivotal role in getting the program back to the national spotlight.

However after her spectacular season, Cooke decided to transfer to Penn State, the same team that defeated the Bobcats 4-1 in the first round of the 2022 national tournament, for her senior season.

“She was a great player,” said senior goalkeeper Sofia Lospinoso. “However, I think that like any team, losing one player does not define the entire team. So we kind of just picked up and move forward from there.”

This mentality was crucial for the team in the 2023 season, as the Bobcats were without their top goal scorer but were still expected to repeat the glamor of the previous season.

Enter senior forward Courtney Chochol.

In the 2022 season, Chochol established a solid offensive campaign. She scored six goals and comfortably led the conference in assists with 14. The Alliston, Ontario product stepped up in a huge way this season, scoring 10 goals and notching nine assists. Chochol won this season’s MAAC Golden Boot, the award given to the best player in the conference, as well is this season’s MAAC tournament MVP and even her second nod to the All-MAAC First Team. Chochol was on fire this season, and at one point held a point streak of eight games.

via @qu_wsoc Instagram

“The recognition is good,” said head coach Dave Clarke. “It’s a mark of respect.”

Chochol’s offensive game was able to help propel the Bobcats past any preconceived notions that they wouldn’t make much noise after the departure of Cooke.

“Truthfully I think they were written off a little bit,” Clarke said after the team’s Nov. 2 MAAC semifinal win over No. 6 ranked Rider. “That it was one player who dictated who the team was, as well as the identity, and that’s not the case. We talked about what a team looks like and what they can be capable of. I’m sure players had their doubts, we had a rough spring, but we worked on a lot of things. They believed in what had talked about in the season.”

“I feel like as a team, and myself personally, we never really counted ourselves out,” Chochol said of Cooke’s transfer. “Our goal was to always go and win the season again. You know obviously, that was kind of a shock to everyone to have someone like her leave, but I think that we never really counted ourselves out, and we knew that we could still go and win again.”

These thoughts were shared by the whole team, as they were able to stick together and lean on each other to continue to create magic for the women’s soccer program at Quinnipiac.

“We honestly knew what we had from the start of the season,” said senior midfielder Emely van der Vliet, who tallied six goals and two assists this season. “I honestly may may have had the most confidence in our team because I saw from day one how we were training. Even though we had a tough spring, the basics were there. We were just kind of unlucky in the spring. The level that we put on the field every single day during practice was good, and it was only going to get better…we didn’t really feel that pressure to be honest.”

Outside of the attention that the loss of Cooke garnered, the Bobcats were going to defend their 2022 MAAC champion status regardless of who was on the roster. The players especially believed the 2023 season to be a special one because of how they were able to prove to the media and the rest of the MAAC that they were still a force to be reckoned with.

“It's always hard to win one season, but to do it again right after is really hard, because every team is looking to beat you as the defending [conference] champions,” said Chochol. “So that was definitely always a challenge for us this year, but I think that we obviously dealt with it well, and teams have different tactics of like trying to get in our heads and stuff and bring emotion into the game. But I feel throughout the season, we did pretty good at like mitigating that.”

Lospinoso and van der Vliet shared similar views on their positions as defending conference champions:

“That's all the all the more reason that we wanted to win,” Lospinoso said. “We wanted to keep it moving and ‘two-peat’ it and make sure that we withhold the standard, and even raise the bar at at some point, especially in the weight room and on the field. Improving in our strength and conditioning and our tactical and technical abilities.”

“I do think it motivated us,” van der Vliet said. “We knew the talent that we had in the team, and the chemistry that we had in the team. We knew that anything other than a league championship was not going to be good enough for us this season.”

And to van der Vliet’s point, it was this team’s chemistry that allowed everyone to come together and share the same winning mindset. Not only are the players tightly knit with each other on the pitch, but also in the locker room as well, where it is equally important to stick together.

Van der Vliet even went as far as to say that the bond she felt with the rest of the players this year was “the best I’ve ever experienced in a team.”

“I woke up in the morning and honestly couldn’t wait to go to practice,” she added.

via Quinnipiac Athletics

Chochol, who assumed a bigger responsibility as the team’s top point getter this season, also believed that their bond outside of soccer helped immensely towards their end-of-season success.

“I think that this team that we had this year was one of the best groups that I've ever been a part of,” Chochol said. “There was no drama, everyone had a role, and they knew their role, and they did it well. Whether that was playing 90 minutes or not playing at all, or whatever it may be. I think that everyone bought in to the fact we wanted to go and win again. We wanted to get another ring and win that championship again. So I feel that everybody had the same goal, and there's no one on the team that I wouldn't call a good friend, which I think is important in any winning team.”

Chochol also spoke to how she felt she was able to perform at such a high level while also keeping the team composed on a day-to-day basis.

"I think leadership is an innate quality, but also learned," Chochol stated. "Growing up, playing in competitive environments and stuff, I feel like that's helped me to just show up in big games.

She also mentioned how Cooke's absence played a pivotal role in shaping the outlook from the team.

"I think that we obviously knew what people would be thinking with [Cooke] leaving and stuff," Chochol said. "But we had a goal ever since we lost in the first round last year against Penn State that we wanted to go out and win it again, and possibly win a first round, which didn't happen this year. But we knew what we wanted to do, and we had no doubts about that."

Lospinoso, who won this season’s MAAC Golden Glove, also spoke to what it was like seeing her teammate, but more importantly her friend, step into the top scoring and leading role.

“It's been an honor to see her grow into herself and a leader, and her abilities,” Lospinoso said. “I think that it’s really shown this season especially, and I think that not only me, but coach Clarke and everyone else got to see the player that Courtney truly is, and her true abilities.”

The team shared a common theme regarding Chochol: they all adored her. The team couldn’t have been happier for her to assume the responsibilities as the leader of a highly respected and sought after team. To the rest of the team, she embodied what a Bobcat should be.

“Honestly, the first time I came in I was kind of intimidated by her, because she's just so tall and so athletic, and she's just the beast on the field,” van der Vliet admitted. “But she's also the kindest person ever. She is super smart, super intelligent and just so nice.”

At some points, having a health sciences major made it difficult for Chochol to practice on time with the team during the specified hours. However van der Vliet pointed out that she was always looking to find ways to make up for it, furthering the notion that she had what it took to lead this team.

“She had classes during during practice,” van der Vliet said. “She missed practice, or she came late to practice, but then she would always stay on the field and work with our assistant coach Dan [Fabian], doing extra shooting, extra crossing. [She] put in the minutes and the hours that she would be missing, or even do more, just to become a better player. So I think everyone in the team saw that and felt motivated by it, and we're like, ‘Well, yeah she is one of our leaders.’”

This season contained a high volume of exciting goals and celebrations as the Bobcats made quick work of the rest of the conference. Lospinoso referred to Chochol's penalty kick goal against Rider in the MAAC seminfals as one of her favorite moments of the season.

"When she does something great, I'm always in her corner," Lospinoso said. "You know, that was a lot of fun. Running to her, even when Dave told me not to, and you know he's like, 'No, don't run' and I'm like, 'No, I have to.' I'm gonna go celebrate with the team."

Because of 2023's successful run, expect Quinnipiac to contend for its third straight MAAC championship, as the team looks to continue to execute the "Courtney Chochol style" of leading the team in the 2024 season. Perhaps a similar story will be written next year to shed light on the player who assumed Chochol's role for the upcoming season.

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