Coming out of the locker room at halftime, Duquesne men’s soccer goalkeeper Domenic Nascimben was excited to get back in goal during a 2018 match against Pittsburgh Derby rival Robert Morris, but coach Chase Brooks had a different idea for his then freshmen.
Brooks had seen enough, citing mistakes being repeated and with too much overthinking, it was determined that Nascimben would not return to the contest, which was tied 1-1 at the time. Though Duquesne would win the game 4-1, Nascimben took the benching hard and it was his last action of the season.
Coming from Australia, Nascimben had never truly faced adversity in his soccer career and now was doing so, continents away, alone.
“For me that was a bitter pill to swallow being taken out of the game where it was 1-1,” he said. “I think in the long run, although that was a moment where I was very unhappy with the situation, I was able to grow from it. There’s definitely no hard feelings and that moment if that’s something that needs to be done, that’s for the team and being a team sport, you’ve got to accept that and move on. My mentality always is to go out there and continuing proving that I should be playing regardless of the situation.”
It would have been easy for Nascimben to give up after seeing his season end and then not dressing for nearly all of his sophomore season, but he was instead determined to find his way back on the pitch, which has resulted in him becoming one of the top keepers in the Atlantic 10.
“It would have been very easy to walk away and give up,” said Brooks. “That’s a credit to his personality and character to continue to push, get better, learn and be humble.”
Duquesne captain Zach Hall recalled his first meeting with Nascimben which was aided by the pair’s lockers being next to each other.
From there, the two were able to form a relationship and remain good friends to this day.
“When he came in I was established as one of the leaders on the team so did what I tried to do with all of the new guys coming in and help them with their transition,” Hall said. “Dom was a very personable guy who likes to get to know everyone and make friends.”
Brooks was excited to see how Nascimben video prior to arriving at Duquesne would pan out, as he had played at a good level of soccer in Sydney, but now the challenge was acclimating to NCAA Division I soccer where it was growing both mentally and physically.
At the time, not many Australians were traveling to America for soccer, though that now has become much more of a norm. Nascimben was 20-years-old at the time, which of course was older for a freshman.
Immediately, Brooks saw the commitment towards improving and at helping his team, though these efforts were not without shortcomings.
“He thinks about the game so much and I think that actually hurt him in his first year when things weren’t going well he was overthinking it,” said Brooks. “He felt the ball should be moving a certain way, so he wass a split second late or a half second off.”
Nascimben’s first collegiate start came Sept. 2, 2018 against Detroit Mercy where he made six saves and recorded a shutout against Detroit Mercy. This opportunity came due to a one-game suspension assessed to Duquesne’s starting goalkeeper due to accumulating yellow cards.
Brooks opted to ride the hot hand as Nascimben started against Saint Francis (PA) and Temple before being pulled against Robert Morris, which as previously mentioned ended his time in net for Duquesne.
“Freshman year probably didn’t go how I planned it to in the back of my mind,” said Nascimben. “I did face a bit of adversity in that time but in a sense looking back at it, it was important for my career because I never had to face adversity in my college career. In a way this shaped my maturity as a footballer and as a person.”
In his next season, Nascimben would not dress and with two goalkeepers in front of him he continued to work on his fitness, mental approach and being a good teammate.
“All players go through highs and lows in a college setting, but coming across the world I am sure there was a little bit of doubt or some pressure,” said Hall. “There were definitely times where he would express how he was feeling to me or some of the older guys on the team and we would do our best to motivate him and keep him in a good state of mind. I would always tell him at some point if you do the right things long enough good things happen.”
Nascimben credited the adversity with reigniting his work ethic and now knew that the bad days had to end. He had to make it work.
Duquesne’s 2019 A-10 championship opportunities were coming down to the wire and Brooks had a decision to make if the Dukes were to advance and that was who would start in goal.
It was decided amongst the team that despite not playing in any previous regular-season contests in the campaign, that Nascimben would given Duquesne the best chance to win this particular contest at Davidson.
Nascimben was inserted into the team’s most important game of the season with limited practice time, though he did stay for extra opportunities with various members of the coaching staff, but game reps carried different weight.
Duquesne did drop the contest 5-0 and then lost a chance to advance to A-10’s, falling on the wrong end of a hat draw, but Brooks expressed satisfaction with his performance.
Even during the tough times, a lot of Nascimben’s teammates remained by his side and starting at Davidson showed that the coaching staff believed in him as well.
Nascimben’s effort proved to be a turning point as he considered his sophomore year a successful one, due to building back confidence with the staff, and more importantly himself.
“It probably did turn the page in that sense,” Hall remarked. “I’m sure it was kind of a turning point not just for him, but for the rest of the team, the guys that are still there. It was really big for Dom that the team believed in him and he was that next guy up to continue to lead the program in the right direction at the goalkeeping position.”
Buoyed by that confidence, Nascimben had a successful summer playing in Alabama and though clearly focused on the task at hand, he knew the keeper position was his to lose.
Nascimben’s junior season was affected by COVID-19 as he was optimistic about his results in an exhibition against the Pittsburgh Riverhounds, but also was looking forward to a challenging schedule. That was not to be, as the pandemic prematurely ended the spring season and eliminated all of non-conference play with the exception of a game at Pitt.
When play resumed during the 2020-21 spring semester, Duquesne played in seven games and though the team record was less than desired, Nascimben grew both in net as well as relationally with the coaches.
Fast forwarding to this season, Nascimben has already been named Atlantic 10 Defensive Player of the Week once and with four conference games remaining, Duquesne is currently in line to make it to the A-10 Championship for the first time since 2016.
Atlantic10Conference on Twitter: “This weeks’ #A10MSOC weekly awards include a 🎩trick, a 3x repeat rookie (already 👀) and a pair of wins with 🎱 saves ✋ in net 🥅 Player: Patrick Agyemang, @rhodymsoc Def. Player: Domenic Nascimben, @DuqMSoccer Rookie: Isak Oystese, @rhodymsoc 📰: https://t.co/3JOi9cw4qo https://t.co/erOFZ92HtJ” / Twitter
Brooks has stated that Nascimben has exceeded the form he saw on that initial recruiting video, and that he has stayed true both to the team and taking steps to compete at the next level.
“He’s an example I can use for other guys as well,” said Brooks. “He’s a guy who came in with high aspirations and was expecting to hit the ground running from day one and it just didn’t come to fruition. Instead of giving up, he persevered. The easy way out is to quit, but it is much harder to face the mirror and realize you are not good enough yet, but that you will keep on working and busting your butt to get there. It’s going to be worth it in the end and that’s what you’re seeing from him.”
The current plan is for Nascimben to play one final season for Duquesne in 2022 provided nothing changes which is just fine with him.
For Nascimben, he is elated with his decision to stick it out at Duquesne. He understood that he could be good, but now he believes it.
“Having the opportunity to prove to coach that I was as good as I said I am was important to me,” he said. “If I didn’t persevere to get out of that situation, we would not be here talking today. I’m very happy with the way I was able to get out of the situation but you have to believe in yourself. You can make of this experience what you want of it. Things can get better, you just have to put your head down and work hard. I’m grateful I did.”