Duquesne men’s soccer senior captain Zach Hall offered a quick word to a couple of teammates who were in close proximity prior to Saturday night’s Atlantic 10 matchup against St. Bonaventure.
“This is a big game,” he said.
Coming into its first home contest in 20 days, Duquesne was on a three-game losing streak but were able to emerge victorious 4-0 over St. Bonaventure.
“We knew we had to show up and get the job done,” Duquesne coach Chase Brooks said. “There’s always a little bit extra energy playing in front of a home crowd, especially one as large as tonight. We fed off the energy tonight and did what we needed to do.”
All season it has felt as though Brooks has put in a help-wanted sign with the goal being a complete 90 minute game.
In the first 10 games of this season, this did not happen, Duquesne was all smiles after firing 18 shots, nine of which were on goal.
“Tonight I feel we absolutely played a full 90,” junior forward Jack Shearer said. “Getting a goal right away is great mentally for everyone. It just sets the tone for the rest of the game. After that we kept hitting the gas and never stopped.”
Duquesne stayed aggressive in the contest and was rewarded with freshman midfielder Nate Dragisich scoring in the fourth minute, thanks to a pass inside of the box from fellow freshman Carter Breen.
Even when Duquesne missed a penalty kick, less than a minute later, Shearer scored his first of two goals on the evening.
Manel Busquets was responsible for the other goal, which came after repeated shots, a reward for his offensive prowess on the evening.
“Coming off a three-game losing streak is always tough to do,” said Shearer. “I thought we responded really well. The game plan was to put them under pressure early, pin them in their own half and get some possession going.”
As Duquesne addressed its three-game losing streak in practice, Brooks opted to call a schematic audible, specifically a change in formation.
In the new formation, Duquesne went 5-2-3 on defense, but when it came time to attack, the Dukes opted for a 3-4-3 look. The moving parts come with the wingbacks who move forward offensively.
“The last three games, we kind of lost our sense so I think (Brooks) just wanted to change some things,” Shearer said. “It was genius by him. We had a lot more time on the ball, we were able to play feet more and we just connected well. The attack was on, we had 12 shots in the first half. That was a huge deal for us.”
Duquesne appeared clinical on a more consistent basis and many passes were hitting their marks.
Sophomore defender Nathan Dossantos added that Duquesne does not want to change much, but when it happens, change is good.
“The formation may be different but the principles and how we play stay the same. It really is not a big jump for the guys it’s just tweaking little things and how we want to work in certain spots,” said Dossantos.
With this new formation, the question remains how often this will be utilized. Shearer stated that in short, it depends.
“With Bonaventure, we knew we could probably have a little more possession against them,” he said. “We really wanted to focus on the attack, especially because we knew we were defensively sound. We struggled the last three games to get into a rhythm on the attack so that formation tonight helped us create so many chances.”
Though Duquesne stands at 7-3-1, it has yet to trot out consecutive lineups which read the same way. This Duquesne bunch has dealt with plenty of injuries which has tested its resolve on a daily basis.
“It definitely comes down to the principles that Chase, Adam (Mitchell) and Sebastian (Pineda) have set for us,” Dossantos said. “It doesn’t matter who is in the role as long as you know your responsibilities and what you need to do. Chase has the trust in players, especially the young players, which is awesome.”
Several times this season players have played out of position and Breen, Dragisich and Hall all did that Saturday, though it certainly did not lead to any drop off. Specifically, Breen played in a forward position which never had experienced before.
Despite all of the hardships, Duquesne has found ways to win matches and currently is tied for second place in the Atlantic 10 Conference standings.
“If you want to win consistently, you have to have a group of guys that have bought in, understand their role and are ready to do whatever it takes to get this result,” said Brooks.
Given how Duquesne won this game, it would be easy to want to play in the middle of the week, but Dossantos believes there are benefits to having to wait until next Saturday night for its conference game against George Washington.
“Obviously we want to keep this momentum going, but with the injuries we have and the travel, everybody will be happy to have some days to settle down, work on the things we want to work on and come back fresh for Saturday,” he said.