David Borne | Staff Writer
That’s how long Coach Al Alvine and his women’s soccer team battled George Washington on a cold, rainy Saturday afternoon before senior midfielder Linnea Faccenda fired toward the net.
It initially appeared as if Faccenda’s shot would sail wide, but the ball ricocheted off of a George Washington defender and snuck by Colonials goalkeeper Miranda Horn, ending the game, as well as George Washington’s season.
Both sides were more than familiar with each other, as they had met just six days before in a regular-season match that ended in a scoreless draw. With the outcome, the Dukes finished the regular-season 10-5-3 and 6-3-1 in the A-10, allowing them to clinch the No. 4 seed, with George Washington (10-4-4, 5-2-3) slotting in at No. 5.
Considering the short turnaround between the teams’ matches, one may have expected that a team would try to switch up how it gameplans for the second match, especially considering what was on the line. However, Coach Alvine liked what he saw in the first matchup, and said that his goal was to take the field with the same approach. It paid off.
“Not at all, actually,” Alvine said when asked if he had tried to plan differently for the Colonials the second time around. “We pretty much planned to do the exact same thing. The reality is that we tried to do [what we did] in the [previous match] in the quarterfinal. It wasn’t really working in the first half, so we changed some things around [at halftime], changed some personnel around, and it helped changed the game for us.”
The pattern of second half success has been consistent all season for Duquesne. With 15 goals in the second half compared to just six in the first, some have referred to Alvine’s squad as a “second half team.”
However, Alvine isn’t a fan of the term.
He prefers to focus on how well his team has developed such a high soccer IQ and is able to make its own adjustments on the fly.
“I think the kids do a good job of recognizing things that we need to do a bit differently,” Alvine said. “They’re a pretty veteran group so they’re pretty good at making those types of adjustments on the fly, on their own, and picking up on things that we need to do a bit differently and better.
“If we need to change in the second half, their ability to adapt really facilitates the process. It’s a concerted effort between the coaching staff and the players. We’ve talked to them a lot about tactics and what we’re trying to do, but they’ve turned into pretty good students of the game,” he added.
With the win over George Washington, not only did his team advance to the semifinals of the Atlantic 10 tournament, but Alvine also became the winningest coach in program history with 51 victories. Additionally, junior Kyra Murphy became the all-time winningest goalkeeper with 30 wins.
Duquesne will now travel to Richmond to take on the No. 1-seeded La Salle Explorers in the tournament’s semifinal round. It will be the second meeting between the two teams. The Dukes fell 3-0 to La Salle on Sept. 21 in Philadelphia. Kickoff will be at 2 p.m. on Friday.
Coach Alvine believes that his team is better prepared for the Explorers now than they were earlier this year.
“First [conference] game of the season, I give La Salle all the credit because they came out with a lot of purpose and a lot of energy and to be honest, I’m not sure if we were ready for it,” Alvine said.
“This game, playing on a big field, a neutral field, I think a field that suits our style-of-play more than their style-of-play, I like our chances. They’re a quality team, they’ve got a lot of talent and athleticism. They won the regular-season for a reason,” he added.
With their season on the line, Alvine believes that his players are prepared to perform in a game of this level of importance, and knows that they’re capable of putting on a display to prove that they are the conference’s best.
“We’ve been here before, we have a lot of experience on our team. Our kids have been able to find a way to grind out wins and win some difficult games. They’re excited to play La Salle again,” Alvine remarked.
“To a player, they all agree that it wasn’t our best performance, and to have the opportunity to redeem themselves is something they’re really relishing.”
La Salle (15-3-2, 9-0-1) enters Friday’s match with Duquesne fresh off of a 3-2 victory versus No. 8-seeded Dayton on Oct. 28. The Explorers have yet to lose to an Atlantic 10 foe this season.
Duquesne surely hopes to change that.