Following a lightning cancellation Sunday against Ohio State, the Duquesne women’s soccer team is prepared to resume regular season play, a week later against Binghamton.
This mark the first of four consecutive contests which will occur in Pittsburgh. Three of the four games will be played at Duquesne’s Rooney Field, while a contest with Pitt will be contested Thursday at Ambrose Urbanic Field.
Following Duquesne’s Friday afternoon training session, coach Al Alvine provided his thoughts on the past week and what is to come, all of which can be broken into the following three points.
1. There certainly were negatives to not playing Ohio State this past Sunday, but there certainly were positives as well.
Sunday certainly would have provided another opportunity for Duquesne to take on a big-name opponent that is coming off a fantastic season, while the freshmen would have gained important match experience.
While there was no rain in the Columbus, Ohio area, the lightning was enough to cancel the game, with no makeup date announced.
There was an available window for the teams to make up the game but it falls around the time Ohio State takes on Penn State and the Buckeyes passed.
Still, Duquesne had plenty of early-season bonding which arguably can be just as important as a match.
“We missed out on a lot but traveling and spending the night together at the hotel at least allowed us to get closer as a team, which is important,” Alvine said. “The reality is we were at earliest starting at 10 p.m, then you get done at midnight and leave at 1 a.m. You get back to Pittsburgh at 5 a.m. with the first day of classes Monday morning. It just wasn’t an option for us.”
2. With the team chemistry on the rise, the team had a couple extra days of practice this week to prepare for Binghamton.
Alvine stated that the emphasis is on fine tuning some defensive principles and the freshmen are still working towards fully understanding the system.
“Little lapses and little moments where we tune out for a little bit are things that will kill us at this level,” Alvine said. “That’s what we saw when we played Arkansas and Penn State. We’ve been focusing on eliminating those moments and making sure we are all on the same page out there. We’ve made some good strides this week, it was a fun week of training for the kids. We are a little bit fresher and better physically.”
It was conceded that due to the week off, there was a chance that it takes a little bit of time to get back to game speed, but feels his team is prepared for Sunday’s contest.
“I’m hoping it does not take that long to readjust to game speed but it wouldn’t be unexpected,” said Alvine. “It’s impossible to replicate game speed but we’ve come pretty close with a lot of our training. Binghamton played Friday (a 3-0 loss), so they had to go to Loretto to play Saint Francis and then play us, on a very hot Sunday. Even right now, this early in the season I would rather have the benefit of being a little bit fresher than playing another game, two days prior.”
One this the past week allowed for was senior forward Katie O’Connor to become healthier, and she was an active participant in Friday’s training.
Alvine stated that O’Connor still is unable to do everything that she has done in the past, but the hope is to get her some time on the field Sunday, provided she is both pain free and feels she can compete.
“We’re not going to put her in a position where we could lose her for any longer than we have,” Alvine said.
Additionally, Alvine also stated that freshman forward Brooke Schutter has been held out of the team’s first three games due to a sprained ankle. Schutter was also a full participant in Friday’s training session.
“No one has seen her play yet and she’s back training and very close to where she was before she got hurt,” said Alvine. “If we get Katie back 100%, we’re firing on all cylinders but again it’s still early in the season. There is a lot of soccer left to be played and we’ll take it one day at a time playing the players who are healthy.”
3. Though it is early in the season, Alvine was willing to evaluate his team thus far and if they met expectations and the answer was a positive one, with the freshmen a focal point in his reply.
“We are at where I expected us to be at this point, maybe a little more than what I expected,” he said. “We’ve got some contributions from kids I didn’t think would step in and handle it that quickly. Sarah Wilkinson and Kayla Winicki have earned their starting spots. It’s not set in stone obviously, but they’ve done exceptionally well in the first three games and Alex Saturni has been great for us. Then kids coming off the bench for us like Lexi Kendro have also made a big impact. We’re in great shape right now.”