Duquesne women’s soccer coach Al Alvine could not help but give freshman forward Lexy Kendro a good-natured hard time for not scoring this season and in Sunday’s season finale, she did something about it.
For most of the second half, Duquesne was knocking at the door when in the 87th minute, senior Abby Losco got a head on a ball which reached Katie O’Connor’s foot inside of the box. Her strike found the top crossbar and Kendro kicked the ball as it was coming down into the back of the net.
While Duquesne was eliminated from Atlantic 10 Championship play before the game was even played it was clear the Dukes were certainly having fun. and the smiles never left for the entire match.
Kendro’s tally would stand allowing Duquesne to end its season on a positive note, a 1-0 victory against Fordham.
“I am just happy for our seniors to be honest,” coach Al Alvine said. “Obviously the season has not gone the way we’ve planned, but on a day like today to come out and get a shutout, and play good soccer over the 90 minutes is a good feeling. It does not make up for not making the tournament, and that disappointment, but it softens the blow a little bit and gives us something and something to build on. We’ve got a really young group of players and that hump we have to get over is closing games out and get those key goals when we need them. If we can start to figure that piece out, this could really be something special. I’m thrilled for the team and thrilled for the seniors to go out on a high note.”
— Duquesne Women's Soccer (@DuqWSoccer) October 22, 2018
Goalkeeper Renata Masciarelli could not help but smile following Sunday’s win when discussing her time at Duquesne.
“It’s been a blessing, all of my best friends are here at Duquesne, I met them here,” she said. “My teammates have become my family, it’s amazing, they’ve offered me their homes and did a great job being friends for me. I will be forever grateful for that.”
She first came to America from Jalisco, Mexico and attended Idaho State looking for a balance between playing soccer at a high level and keeping up with her studies.
“Now my next goal is to go back home and play in the pros, so it’s keeping that high level, but also getting my degree, because sports are not forever,” said Masciarelli.
Masciarelli was one of nine seniors playing her last game.
“We knew this game was different, the energy levels were so high from the locker room to the first steps on the field,” said Masciarelli. “I am so excited that I got some minutes in and help my team get that W. We were joking that this was the last time we would warm up and tried to enjoy each moment. Of course we wanted this game to be the best it possibly could be for the senior class, but we also wanted to get those three points and end the season on a good note.”
Thank You, Seniors! pic.twitter.com/AgT8DpeZyI
— Duquesne Women's Soccer (@DuqWSoccer) October 22, 2018
Goalkeeper Kyra Murphy ends her Duquesne career as the most decorated to play the position in program history recording the career shutout record, becoming a vocal leader and serving as a mentor to four other keepers on the team.
Defender Casey Aunkst took on a position change coming onto Duquesne and by the end of her time on the Bluff was leading a back-end filled with underclassmen including Sarah Wilkinson who also played out of position.
“Casey has been a team-first kid ever since she got here, so no surprise there,” Alvine said earlier in the season. “She’s a leader that leads by example and part of that is sending a message to her teammates that if I can do anything for the team and put those interests ahead of mine, then anybody else on the team should be able to do that too. It’s a good message she sends by doing that.”
Katie O’Connor meanwhile departs Duquesne as its all-time leading goals scorer and both second in total points and tied for second in assists.
O’Connor was injured for a good portion of the season and at times with a younger roster on the field, that inexperience showed.
Senior midfielder Abby Losco also will make the Duquesne record books placing seventh in total points with 37. Her steady play impacted those around her.
“Not having Katie and Abby for large stretches, you saw today the difference it made,” said Alvine. “If we have them healthy through the season it is a completely different team.”
Defender Kristen Kotsopoulos saw her career begin strongly with her being named to the 2015 Steel City Classic All-Tournament Team and since then has filled in wherever Alvine asked. Sunday was her first start this season.
Fellow defender Lexi Taylor had a similar experience having started 15 matches and playing 18 of 20 total matches in her redshirt freshmen year and earned her first start in this game.
Goalkeeper Lexi Cooke saw her first action Sunday playing 24 minutes and making a save while facing three shots. Cooke came to Duquesne after transferring from Akron.
Ivana Kristic was injured and did not play this season but played 32 matches, starting five of them in her three previous years.
Masciarelli saw her first action since 2015 when she was a freshman at Idaho State. She played 21 minutes and like Cooke, saved one shot and faced three total.
“It means a lot, I have learned so much from Kyra,” Masciarelli said. “She’s been an awesome teammate. When I came to the U.S. of course the main goal was to be the best goalkeeper I can be and this program has helped me do that. There’s bumps in the road like getting those minutes in, surgeries and redshirt years, but I feel like I am honestly the best version of myself right now as a goalkeeper, of course as a person to. I just feel even though I could not get those minutes, every practice was 100%. I’m glad to be part of it.”
Alvine was quick to praise both senior backup goalkeepers for the sacrifices they made for the team.
“We wanted to make sure that everybody saw some time especially kids like Lexi Cooke and Renata who have worked hard all season long,” said Alvine. “Their biggest obstacle was having the best goalkeeper in the history of the program starting. I realize how frustrating that is but they’ve conducted themselves professionally. They earned the opportunities and they each made saves. It wasn’t just throwing them out there, they had to perform and they performed well.”
As the seniors hugged coaches and teammates, everyone gathered for one final picture.
“At the end, we’re a team and we’re really tight,” Masciarelli said. “At the end it was emotional realizing it was the last time we were going to play on a field together. I want us to be considered a really united team that really was a team. I would take a bullet for every single person that is on the team and I know they would for me too.”
Assessing the season
It was clear that Alvine was disappointed in the season as a whole as the six wins represent the lowest such total since 2014.
All of Duquesne’s wins came at home as the Dukes were 0-7-0 on the road.
“These kids found out how hard it is to play two games in three days like we have to,” Alvine said. “It is a killer and these kids are used to play games like these that are that physical and that fast. You can tell it kind of took a toll on them as the season went on. Having this experience, the one positive that we take away is a lot of these kids have a tremendous amount of experience that they can take into the spring.”
This season Alvine also had a new staff in assistants Erica Marshall and Erik Eisenhut.
Alvine did mention the idea of this being a brand new team, which takes time to gel. Several alumni from the program were in attendance for this game and Alvine was quick to gesture to them to further his point as it took the quintet of returners three years to develop that chemistry.
“It doesn’t happen overnight but you could see it starting to take shape here in these young players,” said Alvine. “We have a good freshmen class coming in that will be great additions to the kids we have. The future is bright. In seasons like this when things aren’t going your way, you have to look at the big picture. We’ll enjoy this now and get back to work tomorrow. I can’t wait for next season already.”
Through tears and laughter, the team enjoyed its final moments together before being greeted by a several ovations from friends, family and supporters.
The season may not have ended as expected for Duquesne but the finale provided a fulfilling last note.