The Duquesne Women’s Soccer Team was seeking a Thursday night spark after struggling to deal with some of Massachusetts’ pressure and that was where junior goalkeeper Maddy Neundorfer came into play.
Facing a penalty kick, Neundorfer remembered UMass’s Fiona Kane having an effort earlier in Atlantic 10 play against Davidson and used that instinct to make a crucial save, allowing the Dukes to regroup in the process.
“I knew which way it could go and just trusted my instincts on it,” she recalled. “A save like that changes the momentum of the game. It gives a chance to regroup ourselves and realize that it’s just one part of the game.”
As the sideline erupted in approval, a few teammates embraced Neundorfer who told the team to group for the upcoming Minutewomen corner kick, one of seven they would have on the evening.
“(It) raised the spirits of everyone out there and injected energy into the group,” Duquesne coach Al Alvine assessed. “It helped all the way around, it’s the second penalty kick she’s saved in conference play so far so she’s been a big part of our team this year. She’s got my vote for the top goalkeeper in the league at this point, but I’m biased.”
The two teams battled through rain and a physical contest to the tune of a 1-1 draw.
“I thought we came out and gave them a little too much respect,” stated Alvine. “We gradually worked our way into the game and came back from being down a goal. Second half started and we looked like a different team. Unlucky not to get a couple of goals. End of the day 1-1 is probably a fair result based on the balance of play but you have to win your games at home.”
UMass’s goal came in the 30th minute after Juliana Ryan pursued a loose ball after a throw in. Ryan looked for and found Bella Recinos who had a step on her defender and beat Neundorfer placing the Minutewomen in front.
Duquesne was not discouraged by this goal and after being pressured, returned the favor, leading to a mistake as defender Karley Steinher forced an errant pass that found Brianna Moore’s left foot.
Moore then fired a high shot from the 20-yard line which passed UMass goalkeeper Bella Mendoza’s outstretched left hand and into the back of the net.
“We used (the goal) as a motivation to up the tempo of the game and increase the pressure,” Alvine explained. “The goal that we scored was a direct result of pressure. Bri is only a sophomore but she’s scored three or four goals like that during her time her based solely on effort, pressure, forcing players to make mistakes and then finishing.”
For Moore it was her fifth goal of the season, a team high. The effort was aided by Moore’s ability to see the open field and keep her head up as she pushed towards the goal.
“She’s a heady player, a smart player and knows her game,” determined Alvine. “She knows when she can affect the game like that. Tonight was a game not just the goal she scored, but her general play centrally or out wide was someone that was really huge for us in every sense of the word.”
The first half also saw Eva LaVecchia playing out of her traditional defensive position as her assignment was to frustrate her UMass matchup. Given she was able to maintain aggression, making sliding tackles and taking over possession, it was a decision that paid dividends for the Dukes.
As the teams came out of the locker rooms for the final 45 minutes, Alvine issued a directive for his team. “Press the hell out of them.”
That was exactly what Duquesne did and they were rewarded with a corner kick, a post and several good looks, though none were able to find the back of the net.
“I think UMass was caught off guard by that, I don’t think they expected us to come out like that,” Alvine opined.
While both teams were affected by cards in the second half, UMass received six of the seven cards, with Ryan receiving two of them, her second removing her from the contest with 6:15 remaining.
Duquesne had an extra player on the field, but were not able to sustain meaningful possession. With 20 seconds left and a set piece at the ready due to one last yellow card, the ball sailed in the air and the Minutewomen cleared, securing the draw.
“I would’ve liked to see us get the ball out wide and get more services in the box,” reflected Alvine. “There wasn’t a whole lot of time left in the game. It’s not something we train enough, so maybe if the rest of our games are going to be like this over the next five games then maybe it’s something that we should. They wanted to keep four in the back, three midfield and two up top so the wide areas were open and available.”
Despite the draw, Neundorfer was very happy with the effort over the 90 minutes.
“I think it was evident that it was anyone’s game throughout the whole 90 minutes,” she said. “Everyone stepped up to the challenge, and we fought our hearts out.”
Duquesne will take the result, which came against a UMass team atop the A-10 standings heading into the contest. The Dukes now have nine days between games as they travel to Saint Joseph’s next Saturday.
“I like where we’re at right now, I like how we’re playing,” concluded Alvine. “There’s not a whole lot I want to do differently. We take it game by game, we’ve played three different systems, three different formations over the course of the season.”
Duquesne starters (5-5-3/2-0-3 A-10)- Maddy Neundorfer (GK), Karley Steinher, Libby Majka, Margey Brown, Lindsay Krafchick, Jaimi Araujo, Anna Campanella, Jayden Sharpless, Eva LaVecchia, Mackenzie Muir, Maya Matesa
Massachusetts starters (6-3-3/3-1-1 A-10)- Bella Mendoza (GK), Hannah Peric, Grace Pinkus, Juliana Ryan, Fiona Kane, Ella Curry, Carolina Benitez, Nia Hislop, Ashley Lamond, Kelly Pease, Bella Recinos
Goals- Bella Recinos UMass 30′ (4th), Brianna Moore DUQ 42′ (5th)
Cautions- Emma Bundy DUQ 44′, Juliana Ryan UMass 59′, Lauren Robles UMass 79′, UMass Bench 80′, Juliana Ryan UMass 82′ (Red Card), Nia Hislop UMass 89′
Shots- UMass 16 (8 on frame), Duquesne 12 (4 on frame)
Corners- UMass 7 Duquesne 2