Duquesne Women’s Soccer coach Al Alvine made a quick stop to the training room prior to stepping foot on Rooney Field and there while junior captain Hannah Nguyen was stretching, he told her about a premonition he had.
“Don’t you think it’s about time for you to score a goal,” Alvine asked.
Nguyen had not scored since Oct. 24, 2019, but in the 75th minute, in transition, she saw Saint Louis backpedaling and seeing that, decided it was worth the risk to let a shot fly from the 27-yard line. It beat Billikens goalkeeper Emily Puricelli top shelf and proved to be an insurance goal.
“He called it,” Nguyen said with a knowing smile.
For the first time in three seasons, Atlantic 10 preseason favorite Saint Louis, dropped an Atlantic 10 game, snapping a 29-match streak, as Duquesne won 3-1 Thursday night.
“We knew the potential and ability of our team,” said Alvine. “It was just a question of coming out strong, having the desire to compete and committing to winning the game. That’s what it came down to I thought we were the better team tonight. We wanted it more, we outfought them, we outbattled them and I think we were well worth our win.”
Duquesne started strong, getting into the box and firing shots off post and requiring extra effort to save. Additionally, Dukes keeper Megan Virgin made eight saves, as she was busy, but save for a Lyndsey Heckel goal off a corner kick in the 35th minute, stood tall in good.
Emma Bundy scored her fifth goal in as many games at Rooney Field, again trying to put the ball into the net, this time getting a deflection off her chin. Bundy has five goals and 12 points on the season, which are both tied atop the A-10 standings.
Bundy’s goal also was the first Duquesne had scored against Saint Louis since 2017.
Jaimi Araujo scored the game winner in the 56th minute, putting a head on a Bundy pass to beat Puricelli.
As the clock expired, Sarah Wilkinson and Ashley Rodriguez embraced each other and they were joined by Virgin and Brianna Wons. The Duquesne bench emptied and joined the remaining players on the pitch before everyone intersected into one celebration.
Reflecting on the victory, Alvine gave it some thought and dubbed the result as “the best game he has seen on this field”.
Now the test is taking this result to Saint Joseph’s Sunday to start a winning streak.
“This was the biggest conference win on this field that I think we’ve had since I’ve been here,” said Alvine. “This is the standard now. We’ve set the bar here. Now anything less is unacceptable in terms of effort, competitiveness, quality, all of that stuff.”
TURNING THE PAGE
It was clear that Sunday’s setback, hurt Duquesne, there was a belief that the loss would not define this season and that was put on display Thursday.
Nguyen detailed the coaching staff talking to the players and asking them a serious of question, essentially defining their why.
“We talked a lot before the game about what our purpose was being here,” she recalled. “Why are we on this field? Why are we playing soccer at Duquesne? Our coaches asked us those questions and it made us think. We all mentally were prepared.”
Duquesne came into this season picked 10th in the A-10 Preseason Poll and lost to this Saint Louis team three times in the spring as part of the COVID-shortened campaign.
Add that to Sunday’s loss and this team had plenty to be motivated about.
“We used our past experience and have never been more motivated for a game than what we were today,” said Nguyen. “We were prepared today, we were motivated and we conquered this as a team. We’re finally getting to show people who we really are. All the odds are against us and we’re going to prove them wrong this year.”
From the beginning, Alvine was looking for a complete effort and to date had not found it, but there was no doubt after Thursday, that box had been checked.
“They just believed they could win the game,” Alvine said. “We watched film and it was just about convincing them that this is a game we can win and a team we can beat. Credit to them, they bought into it, they believed from the first minute right until the end.”
A PROMISE FULFILLED
After Araujo’s game-winning goal, her eyes were locked on several members of Duquesne’s men’s soccer team who had attended the game.
The men quickly got off their seats and starting doing an animated dance which resembled a bird.
With the widest smile across her face, Araujo followed suit as several teammates looked on smiling in approval.
So how did this celebration come to be?
“The boys texted me before the game and said ‘we’ve got a celebration, you’ve got to do it when you score,'” Araujo said. “So we planned it all out and they were going to be really mad if I didn’t follow through. It was great to celebrate with them especially, because we needed that hype.”
While Dancing With the Stars may not be in Araujo’s future, her celebration, while also showing appreciation towards her male counterparts for their support, is a moment neither is likely to forget.