Velaj's Hat Trick Propels Women's Soccer To Clinch Playoff Berth In 3-0 Win Against Robert Morris

HAMDEN, Conn. - Sophomore forward Furtuna Velaj (Stamford, Conn.) recorded the third hat trick of her career as the Quinnipiac University women's soccer team earned a bid into the Northeast Conference Tournament with its 3-0 win against Robert Morris Friday afternoon. Freshman goalkeeper Biz Cook (Appleton, Wis.) posted her fourth shutout of her career in the victory. The Bobcats record now improves to 7-6-2 overall on the season, with a 6-2-1 stance in conference play. The Colonials' record drops to 8-8-1 overall with a 4-4-1 conference record.

"The sooner you can qualify for the postseason tournament the better," said head coach Dave Clarke. "It definitely takes some pressure off. The last three years we've gone into the last game needing a win and having the pressure to deliver results. Being able to clinch a position before our final game allows us to rest players and enjoy Senior Day. We look forward to the game against St. Francis as preparation for the solid play we'll encounter in the postseason."

Velaj's first tally came in the 18th minute of play on a free kick opportunity. Velaj set up the kick 25-yards out, facing the center of the net. The forward ripped a shot high that was punched by the Colonials goalkeeper off the crossbar into the lower left corner of the net for the 1-0 lead. The goal was unassisted.

The Bobcats held onto the 1-0 lead throughout the remainder of the first half, and fifteen minutes into the second half before the Bobcats were awarded a penalty kick after a Robert Morris foul inside the scorer's box in the 57th minute of play. Velaj set up for her third PK attempt in as many games and ripped a shot high over the net, missing her third straight attempt.

Three minutes after the PK, the Colonials saw their best scoring opportunity of the game. After a Quinnipiac foul just outside the 18-yard box, Robert Morris' defender Jessica Stubbs set up for the kick and fired a shot that was blocked by a set of Bobcat defenders. Midfielder Katie Castner collected the loose ball and blasted a low shot towards the right corner of the net. Blocked by the chaos of players inside the box, Quinnipiac keeper Cook was screened during Castner's shot. It wasn't until the last second that Cook spotted the blast and laid out with a one-armed save to keep her shutout alive.

Freshman Jillian Strassner (Avon, Conn.) set-up the Bobcats second goal of the game in the 64th minute of play when she carried the ball up the right sideline and beat the Colonials defender with a cross in front of the net. Fellow freshman Shauna Edwards (Avon, Conn.) collected the cross and tapped it even further across the net, beating the goalkeeper. Velaj quickly took the final tap on the ball and sent it upwards into the net for the 2-0 lead. The assist was Strassner's third of the year, it was Edwards' second.

The Bobcats earned their second PK opportunity of the game when the Colonials' goalkeeper brought down Strassner in the scorer's box on a scoring attempt. Velaj set up for the kick and rifled a low shot into the left corner of the net for her eleventh goal of the season and her second career hat trick against Robert Morris.

Cook pulled down eight saves in her fourth shutout of the season in 79 minutes of play, while junior Kendra Margulies (Weston, Mass.) played the final ten minutes in net for the Bobcats. Robert Morris goalkeeper Jessica Olin recorded seven saves in the loss.

The Bobcats return to action Sunday, Nov. 1 in their final game of the regular season when they host St. Francis (PA) at the Quinnipiac Soccer Field. Before the 1 p.m. kickoff, Quinnipiac will honor its seven graduating seniors in a Senior Day ceremony on the field.