The Duquesne men’s soccer team understood that it had a tough task on Sunday not just in playing a fast-paced Oakland team, but also coming off a double overtime draw which created the potential for some tired legs.
Instead of making excuses, Duquesne was able to survive a first-half barrage of shots and Oakland attacks before scoring a goal and winning 1-0 Sunday at Rooney Field.
“Anytime you put the effort in that you did on Friday night, that’s going to take a physical and emotional toll,” Duquesne coach Chase Brooks said. “For the guys to stay tuned in mentally and control their emotions and do what they did physically, that’s huge.”
Oakland finished the game with 24 shots, eight of which were on goal, and had 12 corner kicks, forcing Duquesne goalkeeper Robbie McKelvey to make several key saves, while the defenders had to remained engaged at all times.
“When you have confidence between the pipes and that last man, that’s a big deal,” said Brooks. “To have Robbie playing the way he has been is outstanding. I look forward to watching him the rest of the season.”
Sophomore forward Manel Busquets, who tied for most goals scored last season with four recorded the tally in this game in the 70th minute.
Busquets was on the far left attacking third and had to get past multiple Oakland defenders, something which has been a regular occurrence in the Spaniard’s Duquesne career and this time he broke through and scored off a pass from freshman midfielder/forward Nate Dragisich.
“Anytime Manel gets the ball like that, he’s got free reign to take on 1, 2, 3, 4 guys and we have full trust in him because we know he can take on anyone in the country and score a goal,” Duquesne senior captain Zach Hall said. “It was a great run and a great finish.”
The goal seemed to stop Oakland in its tracks.
Oakland had been attacking Duquesne and been the more physical club but when the goal was scored it appeared that the home team got its legs back.
“We knew we didn’t have the legs, they did,” said Brooks. “Obviously (Oakland) getting a 5-1 result boosts your confidence. We knew we were going to have to capitalize on the few opportunities we did get and we did that today. The guys dug deep.”
Duquesne nearly scored a second goal and the back end, led by sophomore defender/midfielder Nathan Dossantos and redshirt freshman Gavin Watt got feet on balls and eliminated any easy angles to get goals.
Towards the end, Oakland started to speed back up and had a corner with less than a minute left in regulation. McKelvey was able to chase down the final shot and dove on the floor, where he was patted on the back by multiple teammates, understanding this last catch secured victory.
As the final buzzer sounded, Duquesne described its emotions in one word, “buzzing”, as it stretched and went to the locker room to sing its victory song.
“It comes down to communication and trust,” Brooks said. “I feel we have built that over the last week. If you look back to our first preseason game it wasn’t there, going back to Wright State, it was a little better and after today I feel very good about our relationship.”
Something which also helped Duquesne win this contest was the opponent. Oakland sent multiple representatives to scout Duquesne’s game Friday night, which is generally frowned upon in soccer. This combined with Oakland’s 2-0 win in last year’s meeting provided enough to where there was more of a personal feel to this game, though no one would outright say it.
“Last year’s game really didn’t go our way and things transpired during that,” said Hall. “I’m sure it gave them a certain mindset going into this game, kind of a lack of respect for us. At the end of the day we won today, punched them in the face and we’ll take it.”
McKelvey put it in even simpler teams saying they did not like Oakland and that the feeling was mutual.
“It was a physical game and we really wanted this one a lot,” he said. “Nate knows a lot of the guys on this team and we just wanted to come out and get some revenge on them.”
Whatever feelings were there or may carry over from this result, Duquesne was able to pass Oakland’s physical test and the mental endurance. Now it has six days to rest before a Saturday morning contest with VMI.
A 1-0-1 record will reflect Duquesne’s play this weekend, but Brooks believes it is far from a finished product.
“We can’t be complacent, we’re two games in and we have a lot to fix,” said Brooks.