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Duquesne makes strong impression in conference opener

Photo credit: Zachary Weiss/Pittsburgh Soccer Now

In the 83rd minute of a tie game Sunday against Atlantic 10 opponent VCU, Duquesne women’s soccer coach Al Alvine recalled a dream he had Saturday night in which he believed one of his players was going to score her first career goal off of a corner kick.

Sophomore defender Ashley Briscoe has been challenged by multiple injuries in her time at Duquesne. These injuries began in her freshman year when she departed the team’s conference game against La Salle. The spring season was also not kind to Briscoe as she did not play due to major shoulder surgery.

Briscoe returned to the field in the team’s season-opening game at West Virginia, but any thoughts concerning her arduous journey back have disappeared.

“I try to work hard every time I can, but I also want to stay humble,” Briscoe said of her return to the field. “It is about giving it your all, 110%. When you’re hurt you have to come back and show what you’ve got. You forget about the past and move on. You can’t focus on what happened because it’s not going to do any good this year. You have to let it go and work hard.”

As junior captain Deena DeBaldo fired a corner kick in the 83rd minute, Briscoe got into position and in a play that has been orchestrated to perfection numerous times in practice, the six-foot sophomore was in the right place at the right time and headed the ball into the back of the net.

“She’s worked really hard,” said Alvine. “She’s been frustrated because she isn’t playing as much as she would like to, but I have a lot of faith in her. It’s so funny because I actually had a dream last night that she scored a goal off of a corner kick in today’s game and she ended up doing it. It’s freaky, but it happens.”

Though the game was not yet over, Duquesne’s celebration resembled winning the Atlantic 10 Championship not only because its opponent was VCU, which possessed the best record in conference going into this game, but because everyone was genuinely happy for Briscoe, who has been through so much.

Duquesne would finish the game defeating VCU 2-1 Sunday at Rooney Field, with Briscoe’s goal serving as the deciding score.

“Overall there is a lot of excitement, especially because last year I got hurt and now I was able to come out here and help my team get the win,” said Briscoe. “That is all that matters. I am really proud and happy of what I could do.”

For a second consecutive week, Duquesne had a week in between games. This allowed the Dukes to heal some bumps and bruises which are commonplace at the end of non-conference play and also prepare for a VCU team which received a vote in the most recent United Soccer Coaches Top 25 Poll, while also being ranked 54th in RPI.

Duquesne appeared the more physical team for most of the game, save for a noteworthy 10 minute gap in which VCU’s  Idelys Vazquez scored off a direct kick that hit off the post. Vazquez was the lone player to pursue the ball after it hit the post and was rewarded with her third goal of the season.

Down 1-0, Duquesne regrouped in the locker room. It was down 1-0 despite possessing the ball 59% of the time but had to commit to its strategy in order to come back.

Though the response did not show on the scoreboard, Duquesne increased both its intensity and focus which resulted in three points.

Ultimately the final 17 minutes determined this game’s outcome.

Deena DeBaldo scored her Atlantic 10-leading sixth goal of the season in the 73rd minute as the ball got to her on a Duquesne corner kick.

DeBaldo, who came into the season with three career goals, bounced around in this game, first playing as a center forward before finishing as a holding midfielder.

In addition, DeBaldo got the assist on Briscoe’s goal which gives her 13 points on the season, which matches Richmond’s Alyssa Walker for the highest A-10 total.

“I told her after the Youngstown game just the way she had played until that point that this could be a special year for her and you saw it today,” Alvine said. “She’s been great all season, she leads by example and does everything right. I’m thrilled that she is finally starting to get the recognition she deserves, I thought she should have been an all-conference player last year. Right now she is making a strong case to get some kind of recognition this year.”

DeBaldo’s goal caused VCU to rush on a variety of sequences with one Ram visibly agitated with her team and head referee Chris Regan as play got more physical, stating his lack of yellow cards was going to start fights.

Briscoe’s goal put Duquesne in the lead and sophomore forward Brooke Schutter nearly scored a minute later.

As the minutes turned to seconds, Duquesne pinned the ball in VCU’s corner and ran out the clock. After the clock hit all zeroes, Duquesne stormed the field,

“It’s a huge win,” said DeBaldo. “We’ve always had tough battles with VCU, so the win puts us off to a great start in the Atlantic 10.”

Now that Duquesne has made a strong first impression in conference play, it will have to win on the road as it heads to face Davidson Thursday. Duquesne was 0-7-0 on the road last season, though Alvine believes that his Dukes are capable of big things this season.

“If we can show that same level of commitment and organization, I told them we can beat any team if we play well, especially on our field,” he said. “I think the sky’s the limit, we just have to stay healthy, stay focused and good things will come our way.”

Here is a photo gallery from Sunday’s win:

Riverhounds MF Danny Griffin

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