Duquesne Men’s Soccer Coach Chase Brooks tried to stifle a smile as he invited all on the field to join his team’s postgame huddle.
With everyone in close proximity, he informed everyone that mathematically, Duquesne had earned its first Atlantic 10 Championship, its first since 2016, and everyone roared in approval, processing that everything which dated back to a challenging preseason was worth the sacrifices made.
“Since we hit A-10 season, we’ve treated every game like a championship,” Duquesne coach Chase Brooks explained. “When we step on the field it’s a final and we’ve had good success with that at home. The biggest takeaway for Saturday is can we take that step forward in a tough environment against a good team.”
Tuesday’s 2-1 non-conference victory over Wright State secured Duquesne’s first undefeated home slate since 2011 and first in five tries over the Raiders.
“We love playing here which is apparent with our record here,” sophomore midfielder Nate Dragisich said. “Just having the goal of having another home game is big for us, we think we can beat anyone here. Every time we come here, we know we can get a result.”
Duquesne also earned the victory without the services of Maxi Hopfer, Ryan Landry and Jaime Borjas. Hopfer accumulated yellow cards and thus had to sit for the contest.
Landry a captain and Borjas a starter, both were healthy scratches that rested to prepare for Saturday’s regular-season finale at Dayton. Luke Alese, Logan Muck and Torge Witteborg started in their stead.
Additionally, Duquesne went heavier than normal with their substitutions bringing in eight different players from the bench.
The level of play never dropped, which the team credited as part of its culture change.
“It shows how well rounded this team is and the guys getting their opportunity are making the most of it,” said Dragisich. “They have the right attitude and got playing time. Having their opportunity and taking advantage of it, is really nice to see.”
One such reserve was junior defender Kendall Newman.
Prior to this season, Newman was a fixture in Duquesne’s lineup, having started 30 of 34 career games on the Bluff, but injury forced him to miss the entire season, until Tuesday’s affair when he played 46 minutes.
Newman’s knock-down long ball was run down Jordan Livits and that led to a sequence which resulted in the game-winning goal.
“Obviously I’ve been dealing with an injury and it’s been tough mentally,” Newman said. “Seeing what the guys are doing and seeing the reward on the pitch tonight definitely means a lot. Now knowing we are in the playoffs, it is such a good feeling.”
Freshman forward Jordy Lopez scored his first collegiate goal in the 58th minute, a score which was assisted by Ryan Goodhew’s corner kick. This goal was a quick response to Wright State’s one-touch score in the 56th minute.
Duquesne won the game in the 89th minute, as a pass deflected off a Raider’s play and then slowly tricked into the goal.
“Every goal counts the same, it doesn’t matter how it hits the net, as long as it hits the net,” Brooks said. “We’ll take it. I thought it was a good game and gave lots of opportunities to guys who haven’t seen the field this season and it was nice to see the group bond, come together and do everything they could to get a result.”
Dukes now concludes its regular season traveling to face a Dayton team it has not beaten since 2016.
Duquesne could finish as high as fourth with a victory, which would allow it to host at Rooney Field next Sat night.
It is clear there is no real love love between the two sides, but Duquesne making the four-hour ride expecting a result.
Dayton has eliminated Duquesne from the A-10 Championship in 2015 and during its long streak, the Flyers have outscored the Dukes by a 26-8 margin.
“Since I’ve been here it’s been difficult playing against Dayton,” said Dragisch, We’ve been close a couple of times and at times they’ve put it to us. This season, we think it’s different, we think we can go in there and get a result.”