Pat McTiernan | Staff Writer
Sept. 12, 2019
A warm, late-summer breeze swept across the Bluff Tuesday night as the Duquesne men’s soccer team played host to the Purple Eagles of Niagara University.
The sound of cicadas reverberated across the pitch as Niagara (1-3-0) took the opening kickoff with hopes of defeating Duquesne (3-0-1). The Purple Eagles controlled the tempo in the early minutes. However, their persistent pressure was not enough to slice through Duquesne’s disciplined defensive unit.
The opening half was a display of cohesive ball movement. Despite prime opportunities for both clubs, the ball was not able to find the back of the net until the 45th minute when Owen Rossi’s cross was sent to the promised land by the left foot of Jack Shearer with 7 seconds remaining in the half.
With a 1-0 lead, Duquesne looked to expand upon their lead as the second half began. Despite relentless offensive efforts, the Dukes were unable to double their lead as Niagara’s freshman goalkeeper, Josh Savoni, made three exceptional saves to keep his teammates one shot away from an equalizer. After a dangerous collision in the 70th minute, Savoni was checked out by the Niagara training staff and quickly hydrated before returning to his net.
With 15 minutes to play the Purple Eagles began to prevent their shots from sailing over the crossbar and put more pressure on Duquesne goalkeeper Robbie McKelvey. It was in the 79th minute that McKelvey made a world-class save, making a full-body extension to the top left corner denying Niagara’s best opportunity of the evening.
Continuing their barrage of shots, Niagara’s 6’1 forward Rodrigo Almeida elevated over defenders and delivered an accurate header to the bottom right corner of the net, tying the contest at 1-1 in the 85th minute.
With five minutes to play at a Rooney Field full of engaged fans, both clubs took their game to a heightened level, and with this came an excess of physicality in desperation time. Niagara and
Duquesne exchanged yellow cards in the 88th minute. Having misfired on several shots earlier in the contest, freshman Nate Dragisich struck a gorgeous shot with his right foot in the 89th minute. Goalkeeper Josh Savoni could only watch as Dragisich curled in the game winning shot with finesse.
“I knew as soon as it left my foot that it was going in,” Dragisich said with unwavering confidence.
The tally marked the first goal of Dragisich’s collegiate career.
A victorious cheer erupted from the Duquesne crowd as Dragisich pointed both thumbs at the back of his No. 23 jersey. Each Duquesne jersey reads “Duquesne” on the nameplate rather than each player’s last name. The celebration truly encapsulated a hard-earned victory for the Duquesne Dukes – a team effort.
Sophomore Nathan Dossantos played lights out on the defensive end for a full 90 minutes. One of the best conditioned players on the pitch, Dossantos displayed great stamina throughout the game.
“A lot of it goes into preparing the day before. I eat a lot of rice the day before and keep myself hydrated… drinking stuff with electrolytes to make sure I can keep running.” said Dossantos, who even switched cleats at halftime in order to give himself the competitive edge.
“That was just comfort… I went back to what I know, the old boots.”
Duquesne Head Coach Chase Brooks described the rowdy and packed Duquesne crowd as “vital”.
“You won’t find a player in the world who likes playing in front of nobody.” When speaking on his team’s physical condition, Coach Brooks recognizes the preseason as a critical time in which players work tirelessly for the success of their talented program.
With Tuesday’s thrilling victory the Dukes move to 3-0-1 on the season and are riding a three-game winning streak. Duquesne’s will to win was evident in their stellar team win Tuesday night, the Dukes look to carry their momentum to at noon on Sunday, Sept. 15 when they host California Baptist University on the Bluff.