By Andrew Holman | Sports Editor
Less than a year after becoming the first Duquesne women’s soccer coach to lead the program to an Atlantic 10 Championship and an NCAA tournament berth, head coach Al Alvine has earned a contract extension that keeps him on the ‘Bluff through the 2020-21 season.
“Me and the whole staff have put a lot of work into this program over the last four years and [the athletic department] has always shown a lot of support for us and a commitment to women’s soccer,” Alvine said. “So obviously, it’s a statement by the administration to us that the program is headed in the right direction. Not just on the soccer field, but in the classroom and in the community… So to have them recognize the hard work we put in and show that type of faith and commitment in us — it was an honor.”
Athletic director Dave Harper spoke with the same sense of faith in Alvine and his staff when he announced the extension on August 12.
“At the end of the day, it is about developing student-athletes and our women’s soccer program exemplifies a program with a robust notion of success that includes both academic and competitive excellence,” athletic director Dave Harper said in a release.
In addition to the conference championship and NCAA tournament appearance, Alvine led the Dukes to a 12-10-2 record, which included a 7-3-1 mark at Rooney Field. He turned a five-win team in 2014 into a 12-win championship team in just one year. The 12 total wins were also a program-high.
“It’s a career milestone for me,” Alvine said. “With all the work that we put into recruiting, developing our players and establishing how we want to play; to be rewarded with those accolades, to win the A-10 tournament and to make the NCAA tournament — it’s why we do this.”
After speaking of the tremendous accomplishments of the 2015 squad, Alvine talked about the bar being raised and the higher expectations for this team moving forward. He will have to continue to develop the remarkable freshman class that he brought in a year ago and hope the incoming class can follow a similar path.
“The coaching staff is always open to questions and will work with players to help them understand specific areas where they can improve,” junior midfielder Linnea Faccenda said. “This approach has played a crucial role in developing my game.”
What are those bigger goals the Dukes are hoping to accomplish? Well, defending their Atlantic 10 title would be a good start. Alvine has his team focused on competing for a regular season Atlantic 10 Championship, which would signify their success over the course of a long season rather than a three-game tournament.
“This year we definitely expect to defend our Atlantic 10 title,” Faccenda said. “We don’t only want to win the tournament again but we want to be the top team when the regular season ends. People have called our A10 victory a ‘Cinderella story’ but we won the tournament because in the end we had the heart to keep fighting game after game despite others believing we were the underdog every time.”
The Atlantic 10 Tournament will remain in the same format in 2016, but changes are coming in 2017 that have Alvine focused on a higher seed. The changes will create home field advantage for the conference’s top teams and will make it tougher for a No. 7 seed to win the championship, as Duquesne did a year ago.
In addition, the program made headlines on its coaching staff with the hire of assistant coach, Ashley Magruda, who formerly played for Alvine. She will primarily spend her energy working with the young goaltenders.
The Dukes will get their season started on Friday as they square off against the Central Michigan Chippewas in their home opener at Rooney Field.
“The opportunity to win a championship,” Alvine replied when asked what he is looking forward to most about the season. “That whole process starts with the first day of preseason. It’s fun to watch the kids grow and develop together and become a cohesive team and a cohesive unit.”