All non-conference season, the Duquesne Men’s Soccer Team prided itself on being mentally tough, but in its Atlantic 10 Conference opener Saturday night against George Washington, this was put to the test.
It was a busy night for the officials as the two teams combined for 12 yellow cards and 29 fouls, with several additional stoppages, which could easily throw a team off its rhythm.
Duquesne also got off to a sluggish start, conceding a goal in the 15th minutes, after two Dukes failed to clear the ball outside of their box, allowing Demi Amigun to score instead.
“You saw the first three minutes they had two corners and that makes it hard to get in when you aren’t getting to the ball and trying to play the ball,” junior defender Eric Zech said. “It’s just hard to get into the game.”
Duquesne was able to elevate its play, control its emotions and open the A-10 slate up with a 3-1 victory over GW, improving to 5-2 overall this season.
“We knew it was going to be an emotional night,” Duquesne coach Chase Brooks said. “GW brings a lot of pressure and is a hard-working side. We knew we were going to see it, so it was one of the things we talked about before the game and at halftime. I am incredibly proud of the way the guys managed their emotions.”
The emotions certainly were ratcheted up from the beginning of this contest as bodies were down for both sides, all across the pitch and both team’s coaching staffs each were carded.
It was clear, even more than ever, given that it was the A-10 opener for both sides, that there was a desire to get a positive result.
Sophomore midfielder Nate Dragisich believed that his team’s non-conference schedule saw a clear improvement across the games both in play and belief.
It is that belief that has been displayed not just with words, which were spoken by several across the team, but now with actions, with Saturday’s contest, the latest example.
“It’s always important to go into halftime at least into the game, which we would have if we were 1-0 down,” said Dragisich. “Just being tied at halftime is so much more comfortable for us, because if we’re down 1-0, then they come in with a lot of momentum and belief. We got that equalizer and we ended up believing more than they did. It showed in that second half.”
Duquesne next travels to face Big Ten foe Michigan State Tuesday evening. Already the team has faced Pitt and Kentucky during the non-conference slate.
Despite the setbacks to both, Brooks stated there was some definite optimism against Kentucky, where Duquesne was competitive until it was undone by a penalty kick.
Even so, this result adds to a growing confidence, which by all accounts, the team feels it is traveling with the belief that it will get a positive result.
“We’re winning the games we’re supposed to win and that’s what matters right now,” stated Brooks. “It’s learning in those games where we may be the underdog and I think tonight was a bit of a step in that direction. GW comes in ranked preseason sixth in the conference and we were preseason ranked 10th. To take the result at home is a big step forward.”
TURNING IT AROUND
After conceding the first goal, Duquesne immediately went back to the drawing board and a minute later as Ryan Goodhew got his head on a ball inside the box, but his shot softly deflected towards GW goalkeeper Justin Grady.
Even so, the sequence made the sideline rise and that was enough to bring the belief back towards the Duquesne side.
Duquesne got multiple more looks with it breaking through when senior captain Ryan Landry hit the top post and junior midfielder Logan Muck cleaning up the rebound for his second goal of the season.
The bench erupted with that positive result and the celebration carried over in that direction as Duquesne tied the contest up before halftime, which provided some clear momentum.
It took less than four minutes to determine if Duquesne would keep that advantage into the second half, when Goodhew put away his third goal of the year.
The Dukes would tally one more when Landry and Jayden Da assisted on Zach Mowka’s third goal of the year, clinically setting him up for success. In celebration, Mowka was lifted off the field by a teammate.
“I believe it is pretty much through everybody on the squad,” Brooks said of his team’s unselfish play. “That’s what it takes to compete at the top of the conference and win championships. It is an entire team going in the right direction. Even if you have one or two guys that are pulling away, it is detrimental. It is good to see the guys setting each other up for goals and sacrificing on defense.”
Another part of Duquesne’s belief is its clear comfort defending its Rooney Field home, where the Dukes are a perfect 4-0 on the season.
Duquesne’s crowd has been growing with each game and it only adds to the team’s belief that it can have a successful result.
“We’re 4-0 at home and no opponent gets any points here, that’s for sure,” said Zech.