David Borne | Staff Writer
After being eliminated from the Atlantic 10 Championship tournament in the opening round for the second-consecutive season in a row, head coach Chase Brooks and the Duquesne Dukes men’s soccer team are on a mission to prove that they can compete with the A-10’s best this season.
With the 2017 regular season opener right around the corner, the Dukes hope to start strong early on.
Their journey will officially begin Friday night as they take on St. Francis in what will be the regular season opener for both teams. Following Sunday’s 3-0 exhibition win against Seton Hill, Coach Brooks commented on how he felt the team looked heading into their final week of training.
“Guys right now are working hard. It’s a very intense environment, a very professional environment,” Brooks said. “Now we’re just fine-tuning a couple things before St. Francis.
“We know it’s not going to be perfect when we step on the field against them, but I think tonight was definitely a step forward.”
Redshirt junior Austin Stout lit up the scoreboard first for the Dukes with his goal in just the third minute of the match. Sophomores Ryan Landry and Zach Hall would later add insurance goals for Duquesne in the second half.
The three players that scored on Sunday totaled a combined six goals last season, and are expected to be even bigger contributors this year, alongside last season’s leading scorer, Fredrik Borenstein.
Borenstein led the Dukes with three goals last season.
“You always wonder where your goals are going to come from every year, and it was nice to see a couple different guys get on the scoresheet tonight,” Brooks said. “I know defensively we’re going to continue to shore things up and make sure we’re absolutely solid there, but from an offensive point of view, it was great to see us break out tonight.”
Nigel Seidu, Cody West, Ian Larson and Peace Drevitch all return this season and will man the backline for Duquesne.
The departure of several seniors from last year’s squad left a number of holes in the starting lineup, but Brooks has a pretty good idea of who will be starting on Friday night.
“I think we’re close. Some guys definitely made a case for themselves tonight,” Brooks said. “Now we get to go back and look at some video, rehash it a little bit and see where we’re at.”
One ongoing position battle that remains unresolved is the starting goaltender job. Redshirt sophomores Scott Rissler and Robbie McKelvey each saw one half of action in the preseason win over Seton Hill. Though the keepers have split playing time in the preseason, only one will see minutes once the regular season kicks off.
“We’re looking for one keeper, so tonight was sort of that final test of two guys to see who would be the man,” Brooks said. “So again, now we get to reassess and figure out what we’re going to go with.”
Regardless of who mans the net for Duquesne this year, graduate senior and team captain Cody West believes he and his team have what it takes to make some noise this season.
“We put in a lot of work in the preseason to get the team all on the same page. I feel great,” West said following Sunday’s game.
“Going into the season opener on Friday is great. I feel like we’ll come out with a lot of energy. We really wanted to use this game as a building block. We wanted to put our training sessions into a game situation, so I think we’ll be fine going into St. Francis and I’m looking forward to it,” West said.
West has been at Duquesne since 2013. In his time here, West has experienced the frustrations that come along with disappointing postseason runs, and he is determined to wrap up his final season on the Bluff on a high note.
“Every time I step on this field, that stings a little bit,” West said. “We always make it to the tournament as underdogs, but leaving the tournament every single year in the first round is not acceptable. We talk about that day in and day out. It’s unacceptable and we need to do better.”
The Dukes begin their regular season Friday at St. Francis, and hope to return home with a win in hand ahead of their home opener on Sunday at 12:00 p.m. versus Bloomsburg.