As the Duquesne Men’s Soccer team took to the pitch Saturday night at Dayton, earlier Atlantic 10 results had gone its way, meaning a win would allow it to host a conference championship quarterfinal, but despite holding a 2-0 lead 15 minutes into the contest, the Dukes would fall 4-3 in overtime.
“We had opportunities on the offensive side tonight and for the most part, we took our chances but we’re still on the defensive side not quite doing everything that it takes to keep the ball out of the back of the net,” Duquesne coach Chase Brooks said. “That’s kind of been our Achilles heel all season, and when you’re on the road, then you better hope the other team is either not hitting things, or that you just outscore them. We just didn’t do that tonight.”
Dayton enjoyed an 11-4 advantage on corner kicks and those set pieces contributed to multiple goals, for a Flyers team which needed a win to earn a berth in the A-10 Championship.
As is, Duquesne will be seeded sixth and face Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia Nov 7 at 2 p.m. The Hawks won the Oct. 16 regular-season contest by a 3-1 margin.
“We expect a lot of what we saw tonight, so we will focus on counteracting that and make sure we are ready to deal with their physicality and size,” assessed Brooks. “I think the fact that we have a week to prepare is a positive and I think it’s actually more positive for us coming off this result here, knowing that we were so close and it’s a big positive knowing we have to prepare and that there’s a revenge factor.”
Duquesne has used the opening 15 minutes of games to its advantage, having scored eight in that time period, the most of any time period this season.
This time, Maxi Hopfer scored, after sitting for Tuesday’s win over Wright State. Hopfer followed his initial shot on goal, earning his 11th tally of the season. Nine minutes later, Zach Mowka scored his fourth goal of the season.
Dayton shook off the cobwebs of having a week between games, in addition to celebrating its senior night, scoring a goal after Duquesne keeper Domenic Nascimben punch off a Flyers corner, connected with Andy Sanchez, who cut his team’s deficit in half.
The contest was tied when Dayton increased its intensity, changed its formation and were rewarded for both of the above, when Jake Feiner scored in the 52nd minute, this, after Nascimben used his left hand to make a save, but could not deny the follow-up shot.
It was clear that Dayton was playing with desperation, fully aware of its situation and took advantage of Duquesne’s inability to successfully clear the ball as Forster Ajago placed the home side in front for the first time all evening.
“In those pinball moments, you can attribute that to having the legs late in the game on the road,” said Brooks. “They had just a little more in the tank than us, which is frustrating, because we’ve been a team that’s had a lot in the tank all year. There was just a little more desire from them tonight, but they had to win or their season was over. Our guys knew they were into the A-10 Tournament already. We were playing for home field in the first round, but that’s what it comes down to.”
Brooks decided after this goal, to bring in an attacking line to combat Dayton’s surge, and regain momentum. Mere moments later Nate Dragisich scored his fourth goal, again after an initial save.
In the 95th minute, Dayton scored off another corner set piece as Michael Adedokun’s header sailed into the net. Dayton’s physicality inside the box served it well for much of the night and Duquesne had difficulties matching that edge.
One thing Duquesne did that Brooks was proud of, was tune out anything outside of getting a result Saturday.
Everything that needed to go Duquesne’s way to host an Atlantic 10 Championship quarterfinal occurred, yet the team played without fear, something Brooks feels could help come Sunday’s game at Saint Joseph’s.
“We can take a lot of positives,” he said. “We have a team and group of guys and maybe one guy on our roster has been in the A-10 tournament, so for them to come out with the right mentality tonight, it’s a great learning moment for them. We have to treat it as such. We’re going to be in this situation for the next few years where we’re going to have a lot of these youngers and they’ve got to take this moment, learn from it and move forward.”