Friday night, the Duquesne men’s soccer team offered its best Rocky Balboa impression, climbing the 72 steps and hoping a day later when it opened Atlantic 10 conference play against Saint Joseph’s, to raise its hands in the air as Sylvester Stallone so famously did.
Saturday, Duquesne was on the receiving end of several punches, 22 to be exact, though 11 of said offerings were on target, testing senior goalkeeper Robbie McKelvey early and often.
In 90 minutes of play, the Duquesne men’s soccer team fired two shots on goal which may be of concern to those reading a box score, but against Saint Joseph’s, it was just enough.
Duquesne sophomore midfielder Manel Busquets was responsible for both shots on goal, converted both and the Dukes emerged victorious winning 2-1 in Philadelphia giving it a school-record sixth-consecutive win.
“We knew coming in to the game that they were going to be a very big team that likes to play direct,” senior captain Zach Hall said. “We stuck to our game plan and executed. When you play a team like that, you have to defend well and take your chances and we did exactly that. We know how hard it is for teams to break us down, so we are not afraid to make things hard and play on the counter.”
Duquesne had to overcome injuries once again in this contest and freshman midfielder Hector Puente earned his first-career start.
Puente assisted on Busquets’ goal which came in the 17th minute. The freshman who hails from Santander, Spain, played a season-high 57 minutes on the evening.
“Hector has really come alive the last few weeks for us,” said Hall. “Anytime someone comes across the world as he did, I think there’s a transition period for sure. Now I think he’s more comfortable with everything and it’s showing in how well he is playing. I’m very happy to see him making an impact and it’s great he was rewarded tonight.”
Any euphoria Duquesne felt quickly went away as it conceded a goal in the 25th minute to junior defender Daniel Morales.
“In the first half we weren’t getting enough pressure in the wide channels,” Hall said. “They had a few switches, and we just needed to be a little more organized in that moment. I thought we responded quite well getting to half 1-1, and then scoring right off the start in the second half.”
Hall’s answer references the second goal which came when his pass connected to Busquets in the 47th minute.
Followjng Duquesne’s victory over Robert Morris, Busquets admitted that the goal he scored in that contest helped his confidence and it appeared that these emotions carried over.
“It was only a matter a time before he got on a roll I think,” said Hall. “I think he’s feeling good and when he’s feeling good he’s one of the best attackers out there. Confidence is huge for forwards and their play and we’re seeing just how true that is with him now. I am so happy for him and for how the team is finding ways to win day in and day out. This is what it’s all about.”
Though it regained the lead, Duquesne still had to stand tall, specifically McKelvey who made eight saves on the evening.
In the 80th minute, Saint Joseph’s Frantz Pierrot appeared to have the game-tying goal, until the Dublin, OH native was able to get his fingertips on the ball to keep Duquesne in front.
Though everyone can admit that the victory was not a masterpiece it is three points that give Duquesne an important start to its A-10 campaign.
“I’m very proud of our guys tonight,” Duquesne coach Chase Brooks said. “This was a hard-nosed, hard-fought Atlantic 10 battle. Our guys bent at times, but they never broke and that’s what it takes to get results in this conference. I’m looking forward to our game Tuesday night. We need to keep working and keep moving forward.”
Duquesne will take a short break from conference play when it faces Saint Francis in a road contest Tuesday afternoon.
In the meantime, Duquesne has grown even more confidence, again being able to close out a game, which has been crucial to this winning streak and hopes this trend continues.
“We have great belief in ourselves as a team,” said Hall. “There’s a feeling at the end of these close games that we’re gonna find a way to win and we keep showing that. That ability isn’t shown by any one statistic. it just shows with the final score, and at the end of the day that’s what we care about.”