In the third game of Duquesne’s men’s soccer season, freshman forward Maxi Hopfer had an opportunity to score a hat trick as he approached the Saint Francis box with some separation, but the Austrian had something else in mind.
Instead, Hopfer saw fellow freshman forward Zach Mowka, and opted to be a teammate first, setting up for a higher percentage shot.
“It means a lot that he had the trust in me and belief in me to put it in the goal,” Mowka said of the decision. “I thank him for that. He had all the confidence going into that so I appreciate him playing it to me and giving me an opportunity.”
Less than two days after an overtime victory over Robert Morris, in which several Duquesne student-athletes battled dehydration and leg cramps, the Dukes braved a barrage of rain stemming from Hurricane Ida to once again win in extra time, this time 4-3 against Saint Francis Tuesday night at Rooney Field, after Mowka found the back of the net.
The victory ended a three-game losing streak to the Red Flash and represents the first victory over the nearby NEC foe since 2016.
“It was great to see the guys’ resilience tonight and the way they battled back,” Duquesne coach Chase Brooks said. “Anytime you can put a couple of games together like that is just a huge positive. I like the belief, the belief that hard work is going to pay off in the end. I think that’s where against Pitt we faltered, we lost a bit of that belief. We have that belief that we can step on that field and work hard for each other.”
After starting strong in the opening two regular-season games, Duquesne (2-1-0) started from behind as Jeff Thielman scored for Saint Francis (0-1-0) in the 12th minute in an unassisted manner.
Duquesne was able to counter three minutes later as Hopfer received a pass from freshman midfielder Tom Tzabari and connected with the lower-left end of the goal.
In the 56th minute, Saint Francis defender Piet Wesling converted a penalty kick to jump back in front. Duquesne has now faced a PK in each of its three regular-season contests.
Hopfer then tallied a second goal when Ryan Goodhew made a run down and Mowka completed the cross in which led to the equalizer.
Duquesne took its first lead in the 74th minute when junior midfielder Logan Muck’s cross deflected perfectly off sophomore midfielder Nate Dragisich’s head and into the goal.
As PA announcer Brandon Rossi counted the last 10 seconds of regulation, Saint Francis frantically threw the ball in and a long pass met Maximus Rigby’s foot. His goal beat the game clock by three seconds.
Rigby had a look in the 94th minute to win the game, but junior goalkeeper Dom Nascimben punched the ball out of harm’s way, one of nine saves on the evening, an output which matched a career best.
“Dom is super important to us,” Mowka stated. “We know even if we get beat and they get shots on goal that Dom will make saves for us. It’s good for the guys to have confidence with Dom back there.”
Nascimben also recorded a secondary assist on Mowka’s game winner kicking the ball out of harm’s way and finding Hopfer who made a move to create spacing.
Mere seconds later, Mowka was able to score the golden goal, and sent the 127 soaked fans who braved the elements, home happy.
“I think the belief is night and day different from where it was on Thursday,” said Brooks. “Getting the result always helps. We understand there is still room for improvement and we’ve got to lower our goals against and do somethings in that manner. That belief and ability to deal with adversity are both positives and we’ll ride that and push it forward. We’re on the right track.”
After playing three games in five days, Duquesne will enjoy a rare day off and then get back to training and film study in advance of Sunday afternoon’s road contest at Howard.
BENCH BRINGS THE ENERGY
During his postgame speech with the team, Brooks made sure to thank his bench for their roles in the victory.
As previously stated, Muck assisted on Dragisich’s goal and after not starting for the first time this season, junior forward Ade Akinjogbin registered a shot and led multiple attacks in 46 minutes.
Additionally, Jayden Da, Jacob Benintendi and Luke Alese all played at least 20 minutes, while Rodrigo Albayeros played eight minutes and contributed towards Duquesne’s efforts.
“It’s very easy when you’re sitting on the bench and think you should be in the starting lineup, because all of these guys believe they should be in the starting lineup, so it’s nice to see them keep that positive mentality,” he said. “The team is going to need them at some point and they came in and did their jobs.”
As a team, Duquesne scored three goals in seven regular season games during the abbreviated campaign, which was held in the spring due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Through three games, one of which the team was shutout, Duquesne has seven goals, scored by six different players, further proof that the Dukes have found confidence and consistency with its depth.
MOWKA FINDING FORM
After not starting in the first preseason game against Detroit Mercy, Mowka was able to score a goal and the Duquesne staff noticed and in the team’s next exhibition versus Cal U, Mowka started and again scored.
From that Cal U game, Mowka has been a consistent starter and his aggression and overall athleticism have caught Brooks’s eye.
“Mowka is such a hard worker,” Brooks offered. “He’s one of those guys you know you can always count on to be in the right spot. It’s hard to find guys that are goal scorers and he’s got that ability in him to get in the right areas and put the ball in the back of the net.”
Brooks’s kind words placed a wide smile across Mowka’s face and seemed to only provide further motivation that his hard work is paying off.
“It’s everybody’s favorite thing to do, score goals, so I really try to put myself in the best position,” said Mowka. “From when I was younger, I always had a drive to score goals. It’s the best thing to do in soccer.”