The Duquesne men’s soccer team opened its season with five home contests and now sits at 4-0-1 on the season after a 2-1 victory Sunday afternoon over California Baptist at Rooney Field.
Duquesne’s strong start has allowed it to remain the only undefeated team remaining in the Atlantic 10.
“I think we took positive steps each game, and we need to take this momentum moving forward into each game,” Duquesne senior captain Zach Hall said of the homestand. “The overall togetherness and grit we have as a team has been a major part of our success so far, and we need to keep that going into the next game and so on. It’s how coach (Chase Brooks) told us, ‘it doesn’t matter how good you start a season but what you do throughout the entire season’. We’re going to keep taking it day-by-day, game-by-game, and keep moving forward and improving our product on the field.”
Duquesne needed three minutes to get onto the scoreboard as Hall grabbed a pass from Dukes freshman Nate Dragisich and beat Cal Baptist goalkeeper Albert Escuin.
This tally served as Hall’s second goal of the season and first since Duquesne’s season-opening draw against Bowling Green.
“It gives us all a lot of confidence when we can come out and grab an early lead,” said Hall. “When you’re able to do that it allows you to immediately settle in to the game and play. It didn’t change much for me personally, I made a run into the box and Nate gave me a great pass and I put it away. If anything, it gives me more confidence and motivation to keep making those kind of runs.”
When Escuin fouled Duquesne junior forward Jack Shearer in the 33rd minute and the Dukes sent sophomore defender Moritz Kappelsberger in for the penalty kick which he converted.
Kappelsberger has been steady on the back end and has been a leader for this team, something several Duquesne players have mentioned during games before he would embrace said player during the interview offering an encouraging smile.
“I’m happy for him and it was well done on Jack’s part to win the PK,” said Hall. “Mo just stepped up and buries his shots when he needs to, and it ended up helping us get the win today.”
Despite a 2-0 advantage, Duquesne was still in for a fight as Cal Baptist was certainly not afraid to shoot, firing 17 shots to the Dukes 11. The visitors also earned seven corner kicks.
Duquesne did concede a goal in the 50th minute as Cal Baptist’s Tete Vacas scored off a Nicklas Haakenstad pass.
“Most of their shots were coming from us not taking care of the ball in the final third, which shows us just how important it is to settle down sometimes and keep it,” Hall said. “The good thing is how we were responding to those chances, keeping them in front of us and outside of the 18 was big time. Robbie (McKelvey) made some great saves and that always helps us. At the end of the day, as long as we stay disciplined and grind out all 90, good things will happen, and that’s what we were able to do today.”
The goal would prove to not be enough. Though mistakes were present, Duquesne was able to earn the victory.
“Every game presents a different challenge,” Duquesne coach Chase Brooks said. “Cal Baptist is a very hard-working, technical side and we had to do the job defensively to close it out. I’m proud of our guys for hanging on.”
For the next five games, Duquesne will take to the road, with the first of these tests coming Wednesday afternoon at Robert Morris. This span of games will include two Atlantic 10 contests and culminates with an Oct. 1 showdown against Liberty.
“We’re confident in ourselves and what we can do,” said Hall. “We know if we come out and play our game and don’t take any plays off, we can play with any team out there. We know we have a lot of potential and the important thing is to not get ahead of ourselves, and to keep grinding out results and working hard in training.”