Throughout this season, the Duquesne Men’s Soccer Team has called Rooney Field its fortress and have backed it up, but Saturday night that was put to the test as it trailed at home for the first time all season.
Duquesne had been looking to exact revenge against La Salle in the Atlantic 10 Championship quarterfinals, after suffering a regular season-ending setback which was the lone Dukes blemish on their conference record, but now it had less than 35 minutes to extend its season.
In front of a season-high attendance, Duquesne was able to do just that as Zach Mowka scored his first two goals of the season to secure a 2-1 victory over La Salle, advancing to the Atlantic 10 Championship semifinals for the second consecutive time.
“After we got scored on, I think we played a lot better,” Mowka said. “We were more direct, we got on the ball more, pushing them and they couldn’t stay with us. That’s not how it should be, but their goal gave us all of the momentum we needed.”
Duquesne was called for a foul which resulted in a set piece that Giammarco Rodio scored for a goal in the 55th minute.
By all means, Duquesne certainly would have been within its rights to play the blame game, which previous iterations of this program have done, but all season long, the Dukes have competed with the idea of it being acceptable to bend but that breaking would not be acceptable.
Saturday, Duquesne stuck to this mantra, continuing the aggressive play that saw it shot count increase by 13, after being contained to two in the opening 45 minutes.
Instead of the conceded goal serving as a negative, the effect wound up being a positive.
For his part, Mowka, entered the season having started 17 of 23 career games, but this season started seven games of a total 18, and did not play in four. Mowka was able to score five goals, but between several hit posts, including one in this game, the scores had not materialized this season.
When Luis Puchol was called for a foul inside the box, tempers flared both ways, with multiple referees attempting to keep the peace, meanwhile Brooks called on Mowka to find the equalizer.
Mowka set up the ball and as he was set to fire, La Salle goalkeeper Filip Sabatti dove on the incorrect side, setting up an open right side of the net, which Mowka found, just off center to tie the contest.
“Obviously I want to be on the field every minute I can be, but whatever role I can help this team, I’m happy to do it,” said Mowka. “If other people are playing and they’re doing well, it’s okay. I’ll just wait for my time and do what I can when I am out there.”
Mowka was not done as teammate Cameron Territo, filed a ball that the wind carried into the top crossbar, where the native Toledoan followed the shot akin to a at Schmucker’s sunrise special, put a head on the ball and saw the Dukes retreat to the corner flag where everyone erupted and Nate Dragisich offered encouragement to a crowd, which knew what to do.
“Those are the moments I live for and that’s what I’m here to do, score goals to help us win games,” Mowka said. “It hasn’t really been going my way this season, but for two of them to finally fall in feels incredible. Such a relief.”
These fans were clad in beanies and included athletes, students, faculty, parents and alumni which Duquesne drew from for the entire game as it fought La Salle’s organization, sticking to its principles and an inconsistent wind that caused any ball in the air to truly be up for grabs.
Duquesne coach Chase Brooks was appreciative of the crowd and stated this vital support is what it takes to continue moving the needle forward.
“I gave the crowd a lot of credit, that’s absolutely fantastic and thank you all for the support,” he said. “It’s about being at home playing in front of peers, family and friends and giving everything you’ve got. That’s what you saw between the first half and the second.”
On the field, Dragisich was tracking down several Explorers passes and moving the other way, Maxi Hopfer was running after long balls and putting his foot on balls and these behaviors from two leaders spread across the field, as Duquesne sought a positive result.
After the game went final and the team thanked the fans, Territo was off to the races. He wanted to hug his family and the warm embrace was
Now the task is a Wednesday date with Loyola Chicago, with both teams facing off during the regular season at Rooney Field.
“We know what we need to do, that’s all to it,” said Mowka. “We can’t take our foot off the gas now.”
Duquesne starters (11-3-4/4-1-3 A-10)- Domenic Nascimben (GK), Christoffer Vie Angell, Jesper Moksnes, Torge Witteborg, Maxi Hopfer, Jacob Casha, Elmar Jonsson, Harper Cook, Nate Dragisich, Ask Ekeland, Cameron Territo
La Salle (5-9-4/3-3-2 A-10)- Aimar Leunda Etxeberria, Luis Puchol, Nigel Buckley, Omari Cotterell, Isak Sedin, Andres Rodriguez, Justin Brunow, Andrew Weir, Omri Ezra, Andrew Rosenbaum, Filip Sabatti (GK),
Goals- Giammarco Rodio LAS 4th 55′. Zach Mowka DUQ 1st (PK) 70′, Zach Mowka DUQ 2nd 82′
Cautions- Andrew Rosenbaum LAS 22′, Filip Sabatti LAS 70′, Nigel Buckley LAS 71′, Zach Mowka DUQ 72, Elmar Jonsson DUQ 81′
Shots- Duquesne 15 (six on frame) La Salle 12 (two on frame)