It is safe to say that the 2017 Duquesne men’s soccer season left a lot to be desired and the 3-13-1 finish, with an 0-8-1 road mark certainly played a big part in that.
This offseason has been one of rebuilding and making sure such a season does not happen again. Along the way, Duquesne men’s soccer coach Chase Brooks stated that was a bit of a cancerous element that ate away from the inside.
He openly admits that the word cancerous has a strong meaning behind it, but when it came to being selfless, coming together, fighting for each other or doing “one more”, that just was not consistently enough the case.
“Last season for us was very disappointing in a number of ways,” Brooks said. “I felt we had a decent amount of talent but had some of the wrong characteristics within the squad in order to have success at Duquesne.”
To put it simply, redshirt senior forward/midfielder Olav Hovstad had one word to describe it, “embarrassing”.
“We want to be the best that we can and last year we didn’t get the potential out of almost any player,” he said.
Brooks said a season such as last needs to be taken very personally in order to properly turn the page. The season taught everyone a hard lesson and any entitlement as part of being a Division I athlete is now gone.
“If you look at it from the perspective of this is who you are, we are here to put the best versions of ourselves out there for the public and if you are doing anything less than that, that is personal,” said Brooks. “If you are giving everything you can and the other team is better or misfortune strikes, fair enough. If you can’t even get to that point, it needs to be taken personally.”
As if it did not have enough motivation, Duquesne was picked to finish last among 13 teams in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll which was released earlier this week.
During the past six-plus months, there has certainly been a reset button hit at Rooney Field and that first began with the departure of 12 non-seniors from last year’s team.
Hovstad stated it was the returning 12 players who all decided they were tough enough to play Division I soccer and in the winter were willing to wake up at 5 a.m in order to shovel snow and practice outside, a full hour earlier than Brooks initially anticipated.
“For one thing, it is better to be out there on the turf playing than being inside in the gym, we can play on a real field,” he said. “It’s also a little bit mental. If I sit down in the locker room on game day and I look to my side and I see a guy I was shoveling snow with at 6 a.m, when it was freezing cold, I know I can trust that guy because he will show up today. That’s what it is all about. Everything isn’t supposed to be easy, it’s supposed to be tough at times and I think it is making us stronger.”
This is part of the mental side Brooks and his assistants Josh Faga and new goalkeepers coach Adam Pearce have worked hard to instill in this team in an effort to continue raising the standard.
Still, Brooks admits that there will be bumps in the road as nothing ever always goes according to plan.
“Growing up is ugly and growing up and improvement is going to be riddled with failures along the path and I think that’s what we try to learn from to take it and help us understand that we don’t want to feel that way again,” said Brooks.
Competition for the red captain’s c has been competitive but Brooks was willing to give Hovstad, junior forward Zach Hall and redshirt junior midfielder Austin Stout the slight edges, though nothing was official at the time quotes were compiled for this preview.
Brooks cites Hovstad’s ability to rise to any challenge given and improved health over the past six months, Hall being able to do the right things on and off the field and Stout having grown up tremendously, but also said any of the 12 returners have all shown improvement.
Other key returners include senior defender/midfielder Ian Larson, sophomore midfielder/forward Zion Beaton, senior midfielder Noah Mehta and junior defender/midfielder, and former Shaler High School and Arsenal standout Ryan Landry.
There are several new faces towards this year’s team, and some of whom were playing with the first team in a practice PSN attended earlier in August.
Last season, redshirt junior keeper Robbie McKelvey started 15 of the 19 games but his starting position was not assured as returning redshirt junior Scott Rissler and freshman Dominic Nascimben also will vie to earn the role.
From an outside perspective not much may be known about this Duquesne team given last season and a largely new roster, but Brooks did not intend to use any coach speak when stating his excitement for this season believing the excitement level is high while remaining hopeful that can be sustained for the season.
Hovstad offered candid pride and a satisfied smile, clearly optimistic that the team’s goal of reaching Atlantic 10 Championship play is doable.
“You are always proud to wear the jersey, but I think now it means more,” he said. ‘What we went through, especially last season was tough for everyone mentally. You go on a break and you feel bad because you want to make up for it but you have to wait nine months to play a game that matters. Now you know that everyone who puts on a Duquesne jersey deserves it and last year I didn’t necessarily feel that. I felt we were a lot of unprofessional players in a way and now I feel like there is more pride wearing the Duquesne jersey this year. It’s going to be a great season for us and I know tons of the guys feel that way too.”