David Borne | Staff Writer
With its Atlantic 10 tournament hopes contingent upon a strong end-of-season push, the Duquesne men’s soccer team took a massive step in the right direction Saturday night. Tasked with the visiting No. 23-ranked Rhode Island Rams on Senior Night, the Dukes came out inspired and managed to grab a victory over the Rams, 3-1.
The win marked the first time in program history that Duquesne managed to take down a ranked opponent. Duquesne now stands at 2-2-2 in Atlantic 10 play this season.
Following the win, Head Coach Chase Brooks described his team’s senior class as a driven group with high expectations. The Dukes, projected to finish last in the Atlantic 10 preseason poll, now find themselves right in the mix for postseason play.
The conference’s top eight teams will compete in the Atlantic 10 Championship, beginning Nov. 3. Currently, the Dukes sit at eighth place in the conference standings.
While things haven’t always been easy for them on the field, especially during a forgettable 2017 campaign, Brooks admires the way his team leaders have helped reshape the image of the program this season.
“After the fall, last fall, we really sat down with the upperclassmen and we really just asked them, ‘What type of program do you want Duquesne to be? What type of legacy do you want to leave?’” Brooks said. “It was from that moment on we started to really set the tradition and started to push forward in the right direction.”
“I think you’re seeing it start to pay dividends. We clearly still have a long way to go — you’re never done working and culture is never 100 percent done, but we’re on the right track, which is nice to see.”
Duquesne wasted no time getting its offense going early on in the win over the Rams. Off a cross from junior Zach Hall, senior Noah Mehta headed the ball passed URI goalkeeper Roger Penske, and Duquesne took a 1-0 lead in only the game’s third minute.
The offensive barrage continued later in the first half, as a blast from another senior, Austin Stout, extended Duquesne’s lead to two in the 39th minute.
Less than five minutes later, the senior class struck gold once again. A feed from Olav Hovstad found Mehta, who managed to bury his second goal of the evening to put Duquesne up by three.
Rhode Island did manage to get on the board early on in the second half, but the Dukes’ defensive efforts proved to be too much for the Rams. URI was held to just five shots on goal in the loss.
“Two different seniors scoring goals, a senior with an assist, you can’t ask for much else,” Brooks said. “That’s total commitment and buy-in. Even through the difficult situations, I really give them a lot of credit for sticking with it, understanding the process and committing to it.”
Mehta echoed his coach’s statements, saying the win was the perfect way for the seniors to celebrate their special night.
“We just believed,” he said. “We knew we were going to get a result after getting a good one against Saint Louis, so we just stuck to our task and got a result. It’s brilliant, man. You love to see that. For the seniors, second-to-last game on Rooney. I’m proud of everybody on the team.”
Mehta earned Atlantic 10 Offensive Player of the Week honors following a week that saw his performance against Rhode Island. Additionally, goalkeeper Robbie McKelvey, who made four saves against the Rams, was named A-10 Defensive Player of the Week, as well.
The final two contests on Duquesne’s schedule will ultimately decide its fate. The Dukes close out the year with a road game against St. Bonaventure on Oct. 27, followed by one final home game on Oct. 31 versus Davidson.
St. Bonaventure is currently 2-4 in conference play, and is trying to sneak into the playoff picture, as well. As for Davidson, the Wildcats will be a much tougher test for Duquesne. Davidson sits second in the A-10 standings with a record of 4-1-1 on the year.
Duquesne has already made massive strides as a team this season. With their playoff hopes on the line, Brooks just wants his team to keep doing what they’ve been doing. Set the bar high, and fight for a result.
“We’ve continued to set our bar higher and higher every time we step on the field, and that’s what we have to do,” he said.
The Dukes will head to Olean, New York, to face St. Bonaventure on Oct. 27 at 7 p.m. The Bonnies need a win to keep their season alive, and will certainly be another challenge for the Dukes.