As the Duquesne women’s soccer team prepared for the second half of its Sunday afternoon Atlantic 10 matchup against George Mason, there was a clear message sent from the Dukes coaching staff.
That first half was not nearly good enough.
Duquesne coach Al Alvine stated the first half in which his Dukes struggled to attack with purpose was probably as poor as the team has played all season.
His evidence points to a shot in the third minute from Hannah Nguyen and then no such attacks for over 35 minutes, during which time George Mason already had a goal in hand and clearly was agitating Duquesne with both its pressure and physicality.
“This is our home field and we haven’t lost on our home field in a while,” junior captain Deena DeBaldo said. “We needed to step it up.”
Duquesne did indeed respond totaling two goals in the match’s final 13 minutes to upend a George Mason team which was looking for its first conference victory, by a 2-1 tally.
“The three points on the day was very important for us,” junior captain Lauren Bell said. “We already have more than the amount of points we had last year and we have nine so far. We’re really encouraged as a team. We knew this was a game we needed to win so we all put our heads down and went to it.”
Duquesne next will take to the road for two games, beginning Sunday at Saint Joseph’s. The Dukes will be looking to win a road match for the first time the 2017 season.
“It is about trying to instill that work ethic in the kids and the intensity,” said Alvine. “We have that in us but at times it is a little too inconsistent. We have two great opportunities for us to step up and break that trend.”
The key to this win may have come from Duquesne’s bench.
As previously mentioned, Duquesne appeared lifeless at times, while George Mason’s attack matched the changing weather of rain and wind, so what changed?
In the final 5:30 of the first half, Duquesne’s reserves were able to get the ball inside of the George Mason box and were the aggressors. Though no goal was scored into the sequence, it provided momentum and foreshadowed a more tenacious Duquesne side.
“I thought the kids that came off bench today really saved the game for us,” Alvine said. “The kids who we subbed in there in the first half took control of the game and really put them under pressure. All of the kids that came off the bench for us can start, and a lot of them have. It’s whoever is getting it done will be out on the field.”
Indeed Alvine has not been afraid to switch the starting lineup if he likes what a player brought to a game or throughout the week in practice.
It is clear Duquesne takes this in stride as the competition to be a part of the starting 11 is never set in stone.
Duquesne played a physical Richmond side Thursday and perhaps that explains part of why the first half was more of a struggle, but with a deep bench, several starters were able to be replaced with fresh legs, eager and ready to contribute.
Though players naturally are competitive and want minutes, there is a balance as ultimately everyone clearly is in tune with the main objective, getting three points at match’s end.
“We’re super lucky that we have such an understanding group,” said Bell. “Everybody is 100% about the team, we don’t have a single person on the team that has a selfish mindset about playing time or scoring all of the goals.”
Prior Sunday’s game, Duquesne honored Kaitlyn ‘Moe’ Rosensteel on her birthday. Rosensteel and her friend Brendan McGowan passed away June 13 as each was struck by lightning at a Westmoreland County park.
“It’s a huge loss for soccer in Western Pennsylvania and their family obviously,” Alvine said. “She was a really popular kid that everybody really loved. It was nice to have a chance to recognize her today on her birthday. It makes it even more special.”
We want to thank @DuqWSoccer Coach Al & his staff along with all the players. Many of you either played with Moe or knew her as Keli’s little sister that came on every soccer trip. Way to Rock the Purple at Rooney! #moe86 pic.twitter.com/3AbzCUXBQ0
— Ed Rosensteel (@edrosensteel) October 6, 2019
Duquesne honored Rosensteel by wearing a purple warmup shirt with the message Pray For Moe and her number 86 on the back. Freshman Maddie Genicola has worn the number 86 jersey this season as a tribute to her friend and several Duquesne players knew of Rosensteel.
Additionally, Duquesne observed a moment of silence, dedicating the game in Rosensteel’s memory.
Down 1-0 at halftime, Duquesne staged a comeback with Bell and DeBaldo, two of said players who knew Rosensteel each scored a goal which led to victory. Bell’s goal came in the 77th minute and DeBaldo scored in the 89th minute.
“I really believe that Moe was looking down on us,” said DeBaldo. “Even though we were losing 1-0 at halftime, I knew that we would come back and win it for her.”
For a player who wore the number 86 to honor former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward because he was always smiling, Duquesne attempted to echo this message even when the game was far from in hand. After 90 minutes, Duquesne was indeed all smiles, a fitting tribute for an individual who meant so much to so many.
As for Duquesne’s plan following the game, Bell wants Rosensteel’s Dukes friends and teammates to come together.
“We can turn around and call Ed, Moe’s dad and we can tell him this was for her,” she said. “This was a game that maybe we didn’t play our best, but we did what we needed to do to win because that’s what Moe deserves. It was great to be able to honor her that way.”