For the first time since 2015, the Duquesne Women’s Soccer Team won its opening contest, besting Saint Francis (PA) by a 3-1 total Sunday afternoon at Rooney Field.
“Getting a win is the most important thing right now,” Duquesne coach Al Alvine said. “We had stretches where we played really well and did what we wanted to do and then we had some lapses where we gave the ball away needlessly. Overall, I am satisfied with getting a win today and with dominating the game for the most part.”
Freshman forward Emma Bundy tallied the first score in the 21st minute, converting from approximately 30 yards out.
Duquesne struck again in the 39th minute, when freshman defender Karley Steinher was able to successfully head a Hannah Nguyen corner into the back of the net. Nguyen’s assist was one of two she recorded on the afternoon.
Ashley Rodriguez was responsible for the third goal when her penalty kick in the 63rd minute froze Red Flash goalkeeper Sarah McConnon.
In total, Duquesne took 19 shots, 12 of which were on goal and had an 8-3 advantage in corners.
“Winning our home opener is great for us moving forward,” said Rodriguez. “I really think this is going to be our year. I’m really excited for it and I know the rest of the team is too. This is the perfect thing for us right now.”
During the preseason, Alvine has focused on his team imprinting its own style of play while establishing both an identity and culture.
Though the culture was previously fine according to the 10th-year coach, the way his team is playing is different and he can see the identity piece starting to round into shape.
In terms of play, Duquesne was tested as Saint Francis was able to string possessions together towards the end of the first half. When the Red Flash scored a goal 22 seconds into the second half, as Danielle Goedhart cut the Duquesne advantage in half.
Less than seven minutes later, Goedhart was assessed a red card by referee Erik Blackburn, and Saint Francis was a player down for the duration of this contest.
Duquesne appeared a step behind to start the second half and the red card provided an additional wrinkle that initially seemed to inspire the Red Flash.
“Having that early goal and red card was obviously a shock to the game but I think game management is a big piece for us,” junior forward Lexy Kendro said. “Sometimes, we’ll switch off but we have to stay on top. I am always trying to be vocal and get everyone’s heads in the game. A lot of communication comes with game management. It’s all about talking to one another and being on the same page.”
Rodriguez echoed her teammate’s words, especially when referring to the communication aspect.
Her communication and on-pitch coaching was consistent throughout the match, something which was by design, in an effort to create game flow and refocus her team on the task at hand.
As an upperclassman, she believes the best way to do this is by demonstrating it on the field.
“When you’re going hard for every tackle, if I’m fighting then I know the other upperclassmen are also doing the same and (the underclassmen) see that,” said Rodriguez. “They see a tough team that is always fighting and working hard to get better.”
Alvine opined that his team should have made the opponent chase but instead played more direct than intended. He was not overly concerned about game management, believing that will come as the season continues.
TURNING THE PAGE
By no means was last season ideal as Duquesne played eight games against Atlantic 10 foes Dayton, St. Bonaventure and Saint Louis, while competing in one non-conference affair versus Pitt.
That Duquesne was 3-5-1 was the least of the team’s concerns.
“It was tough for the kids to stay positive about things,” Alvine said. Everything else from getting tested to knowing things could end at any moment, you’re living on the edge of a precipice basically.”
Alvine confirmed with there presently being a relative state of normalcy at least in terms of scheduling and training, there is a breath of fresh air.
A total of 522 fans attended Sunday afternoon’s contest and it was not just parents, but also several different teams within the athletic program and incoming students experiencing their first athletic event on campus.
Rodriguez confirmed that the COVID season was indeed an exhausting one for her team, but the team rebounded and worked hard over the summer to become stronger.
Despite the hardships the abbreviated season provided, Kendro expressed that it may have provided more good than harm.
“It pushed all of us mentally and see how much we can take as a group,” she stated. “It made us grow closer together and work things out. I think it was a blessing in disguise to be honest. We needed to work on a lot of things and having that time there for us really I think will help us for the season.”