Friday night, the Duquesne women’s soccer season kicks off as the Dukes travel to Morgantown and take on 11th ranked West Virginia.
Following a 6-9-2 2018 campaign, the Dukes are trying to eliminate a season which all parties involved viewed as disappointing from their memory.
If the team’s two-game exhibition slate is any barometer, Duquesne is off to a good start in that regard, winning a home contest against Kent State and then taking to the road to defeat Cleveland State.
“Last year we were a very young team, we started as many as eight freshmen in one game,” Duquesne coach Al Alvine said. “It was a learning process for them. We had a really good spring, the kids really came together and played how we wanted them to play. They have really carried it over in the preseason. The first 30 minutes of the (Kent State) game, I felt we were very good for a first game five days into the preseason. I thought we created good chances and scored a great goal.”
After the team’s 2-1 victory over Kent State, Alvine spent a few minutes previewing the upcoming season.
PSN: What was the collective takeaway from last season and how has that translated into the 2019 season?
Alvine: “It was frustrating on all fronts but that was last year. There are a lot of things we are doing differently now with team building and we are spending a lot more time together than we did last year. That is paying dividends in terms of the team chemistry. You can’t overstate how important that is, especially for a young team. We are willing to work for each other. We have a tough non-conference schedule coming up. We are going to have our work cut out for us, but it is all geared around preparing us for the Atlantic 10.”
PSN: Who do you feel are players that will be key to the upcoming season and who has impressed the coaching staff as a whole?
Alvine: “If you saw Jaimi Araujo out there for us, she’s a freshman who has come in and from the start just impressed us with her combativeness and came in fit as hell. That team we just played against was a big, physical team and she as a freshman did not look out of place one bit. She battled and was unlucky not to score the first goal in the first half. Alex Saturni did great today, Hannah Nguyen is a special player for us, she makes things click for us. In the back Kayla Winicki was the only player who played the whole 90 minutes and she has the potential to be as good as Casey (Aunkst) was for us. That’s saying something because Casey was the best centerback I’ve ever had here.
“We’ve got two good goalkeepers right now that played tonight, but we have a transfer (Megan Virgin) that is every bit as good as those two that has not been cleared eligibility wise but hopefully she’ll be clean and may get a chance to play. There is a lot to like about the team, so it is going to be an interesting year.
PSN: What improvements have you made as a coach since last season ended?
Alvine: “It’s about keeping a consistent message and making sure we are doing things the right way. I am taking a little bit more of a hands on approach. I’ve got great assistant coaches, but really it is getting to know the players more on a personal level and really understanding what makes them tick. It’s important for them to be personally invested in the program and team that we have to do the same.”
PSN: Rooney Field has had new turf installed this season. How will that impact the team?
Alvine: “It’s definitely a big step up from what we have played over the last couple of years. It’s going to take some time before it settles in. We’ve got four teams playing on it at any given time so it is only a matter of time.”