James Leo | Staff Writer
The Duquesne women’s soccer team (2-2-2) looked to gain positive momentum heading into the start of conference play. They got that and more in their last non-conference matchup against Youngstown State (2-5-1) on Sunday afternoon.
Duquesne and Youngstown State have met on 10 previous occasions. In those games, The Red and Blue had a record of 7-1-2, and a goal differential of 32-4. The Dukes continued their dominance of Youngstown State on Sunday.
Duquesne played a very defensive first half of soccer; they allowed only two Youngstown shots, only one of which was on target. Duquesne’s offense played just as stellar, even if it didn’t show on the scoreboard. They tallied 14 total shots in the first half, with several great opportunities. One shot from Deena DeBaldo narrowly missed in the 9th minute, and another one grazed the crossbar in the 28th minute.
The Dukes broke through with a goal in the 38th minute from freshman Natalie Bell. This was the first goal of her Duquesne career.
With a 1-0 lead at half, coach Al Alvine was proud of his team’s performance.
“I told them that these opportunities would eventually turn into goals,” Alvine said. “But in the meantime, we needed to keep creating great opportunities.”
The team definitely took his advice to heart. The second half of action saw more tenacious defense from the Dukes, allowing a total of four shots (zero goals) in the entire second half.
Their play started to show on the scoreboard, too. A second-half scoring onslaught started with a goal from DeBaldo in the 46th minute (assist to Sarah Wilkinson) to make the score 2-0 in favor of the Dukes.
Another goal came in the 47th minute from freshman Jaimi Araujo off of a penalty kick. This goal, the first of Araujo’s Duquesne career, made the score 3-0.The goal was followed by DeBaldo’s second of the day in the 59th minute, and an unassisted goal by Tori Kopchak almost immediately after in the 61st minute. DeBaldo then completed the hat trick with her third goal in the 78th minute, assisted by fellow junior Lauren Bell. When all was said and done, the final score was 6-0 Duquesne. Coach Alvine said was impressed by the way his team played in the second half.
“I was proud of the way they took my halftime talk to heart,” he said. “We kept fighting to create more opportunities in the second half, and we truly played until the final whistle.”
Alvine stressed the importance of carrying the momentum from Sunday’s game into the start of conference play.
“This game, with all of the momentum we currently have, is all part of the bigger picture,” Alvine said. “We want to carry this momentum through the rest of the year, into conference play and eventually the A-10 Championship.”
Despite tough losses to No. 14 North Carolina State and No. 11 West Virginia earlier in the year, Alvine said his team learned a lot from those games.
“Playing against those teams allowed us to play against a caliber of athleticism that we aren’t used to,” he explained. “Although we lost, it was great exposure to a higher level of competition.”
Although Duquesne played some of the top 25 teams in the nation, they held their own: they lost by two goals against West Virginia, and by three goals against North Carolina State.
The Dukes will play in their first conference game of the season vs. VCU at 1 p.m. on Sunday, September 22 at Arthur J. Rooney Field. The Dukes look to get their revenge, as they narrowly lost to VCU on the road last year. Nevertheless, this game will be a test for the Dukes, as VCU has been a top team in the A-10 for a handful of years.
Duquesne struggled against A-10 opponents last season, posting a 2-6-2 record in conference play. The team managed to score just six goals against it’s A-10 opponents, and allowed 13.
With a more experienced roster this season, the Dukes should be able to find more success in 2019.