Down 1-0 and facing a penalty kick in the 49th minute, the Duquesne men’s soccer team had a tall task ahead in Friday’s season-opening, non-conference foe Bowling Green, but no one told that to senior goalkeeper Robbie McKelvey.
McKelvey played mental games in goal, almost daring Bowling Green’s Charlie Maciejewski to miss and sure enough a save was made, which brought a Rooney Field crowd of over 500 students to its feet.
“I had no idea where he was going, so I just tried yelling at him and rattle him, enough for him to hit a bad PK and it was enough. It is definitely growth. I feel like in the past I probably would have been scared and stay down the middle or go the other way. I feel like I would not have tried to rattle him enough to make the save.”
The save was one of six McKelvey recorded on the evening and senior defender Zach Hall squared the match six minutes later, which tied the contest at one.
Ultimately, this score remained unchanged after double overtime securing a 1-1 draw.
Duquesne showed plenty of fight in the second half despite some injuries, yet refused to surrender to its opponent, which big picture helped coach Chase Brooks’ view of this draw.
“I’m leaning positive,” he said. “It was going to be a tough game, always. Bowling Green has a great system that is tough to deal with and they execute it very well. Considering we had younger guys on the field getting their first collegiate minutes, I was very happy with how we reacted. I do think we started a little slow but once it started to click, we saw some things that went well for us.”
Bowling Green’s goal was scored by Chris Sullivan in the seventh minute as he was able to create enough separation on the right side of the field to fire off a shot which hit the back left portion of the net, evading McKelvey’s diving attempt.
Brooks admitted that the goal showed inexperience and that a couple of early mistakes lingered. Meanwhile leaders such as Hall, a captain, had to remind the younger players how there was plenty of time remaining to strike back.
“We stuck to our game plan and made sure guys did not drop their heads,” said Hall. “When it happens that early, it never really is a good thing. I thought we did well to rebound and got back into the game in the first half.”
Indeed, Duquesne was able to get seven shots off and possessed the ball nearly 50-50 with Bowling Green, showing it remained engaged in the contest.
This made Bowling Green’s penalty kick all the more important as a save would reward Duquesne with the momentum it had been building too.
When McKelvey made the save, as with any penalty kick, the match shifted.
“It was awesome for Robbie to save that and as soon as he saved it, you get a lot of motivation from that and an energy boost,” Hall said. “I felt that the rest of the game and I believe my teammates did too.”
Hall’s goal in the 55th minute on a pass from sophomore forward Manel Busquets. Remarking on his goal, Hall was pleased to score so early in the season as it helps from a confidence standpoint, though he thought his teammate, transfer Jack Shearer was going to put a head on it. Once it dropped to the senior, he was able to finish the play.
“That was a nice finish, he did what he needed to do,” said Brooks. “In previous years, he would try to smash it. He was composed, he was calm and put it in. We’re very fortunate that we have a few strong leaders. Zach is one of them but we also have Nate Dossantos, Moritz Kappelsberger, and there are a couple of guys off the bench that are battling injury. It is a good, hard-working group of guys. Zach is that prototypical Duquesne player.”
Duquesne was tested in the 76th minute when Bowling Green went on a run and McKelvey negated Sullivan’s attempt to tally a second goal on the evening, stopped a diving header, reading it and cutting off any angle.
“I feel like I just had to come out for it for my team,” said McKelvey. “I feel if I didn’t come out for my team it would have been an easy tap in for them. At that moment in the game, I just have to put my body out there for the team.”
McKelvey knows he is expected to be a critical part of the team’s success in the back, keeping everything together by example or simply by being consistently vocal.
Brooks considers his keeper’s first test a successful one.
“Robbie made some great saves tonight, I give him full credit,” he said. “Those moments where maybe we weren’t as clinical or as sharp around our own goal, he bailed us out which is what you want.”
Duquesne had opportunities to win the game both at the end of regulation an the first overtime period, but Bowling Green goalkeeper Anthony Mwembia stood tall in net all night long and got both of his hands in position for crucial saves.
This game saw Duquesne start three freshmen in redshirt Gavin Witt, Brian Bruzdewicz and Nate Dragisich, all three of whom played major minutes against a deeper Bowling Green roster.
“I think it was a good first game of the season,” said Hall. “Last year’s team probably would have lost that game, so the fight was there and it was good. I thought throughout that whole overtime that we were going to get the winner. There are a lot of positives to take from tonight, but it is disappointing not to get three points.”
There is not much time to prepare for Sunday afternoon’s meeting with Oakland. There will be more mental preparation with ice baths and a recovery session against an opponent Duquesne lost to by a 2-0 count last season.
“I did them no favors opening with these two teams,” Brooks said of his schedule. “I’m very intrigued to see how we react and what have we learned from tonight? Can we be smarter in possessions where we have good attacking opportunities?”