Duquesne women’s soccer defeated by La Salle, Rhode Island

Courtesy of Duquesne Athletics | MacKenzie Leeder was on the receiving end of a physical play in Thursday’s loss to La Salle.

Spencer Thomas | Staff Writer

Oct. 21, 2021

Despite a pair of strong performances from goalkeeper Megan Virgin, the Duquesne women’s soccer team was not able to capitalize in its two most-recent Atlantic 10 Conference defeats.

The Dukes fell to La Salle, 2-1, at Rooney Field on Thursday before dropping a road contest at Rhode Island by the same tally on Sunday.

La Salle initially struggled to connect on its passes at the field’s offensive end in Thursday’s contest. However, once the Explorers got rolling, they began to produce unrelenting offensive pressure. A diving save from Virgin in the game’s fourth minute kept La Salle off the board at that point.

For much of the first half, Duquesne struggled to clear the ball out of its end, and La Salle continued applying pressure. The Explorers posted nine first-half shots, with five of them coming on net. By comparison, the Dukes mustered just one first-half shot.

After Virgin was able to weather La Salle’s attack for much of the first half, the Explorers finally broke through in the game’s 36th minute.

A corner kick bounced around in the box before La Salle’s Kelli McGroarty put it on net. The ball narrowly trickled past the goal line before Virgin was able to corral it, and the Explorers took a 1-0 lead into halftime.

The Dukes came out stronger in the second half, but were matched by the Explorers’ physical style of play.

Duquesne created some danger about 10 minutes into the second half, when a sudden pass into the box found the foot of Ashley Rodriguez. She was taken down, and ultimately got the opportunity to tie the game on a penalty kick.

She took a slow run-up, then rapidly accelerated before driving the ball into the top left corner. Rodriguez’s shot struck the net’s crossbar before ricocheting in. Her second goal of the season helped the Dukes even the score.

However, Duquesne was unable to maintain that momentum, and La Salle continued to make Virgin work. She charged out 25 yards to clear a counterattacking chance with 23 minutes left.

Her outstanding play failed to ignite her offense, and La Salle finally capitalized on one of its many opportunities when Lauren Costello headed home a cross with just over 18 minutes left in the contest.

Even when the desperate need for goals was abundantly clear, the Dukes were stifled by some chippy play from the Explorers. Late in the second half, MacKenzie Leeder was taken to the turf by a La Salle attacker, and she remained down for several minutes.

However, Leeder felt that physical play was to be expected throughout the night.

“The game was intense on both sides. We knew going into the game La Salle was going to come in strong,” Leeder said postgame. “Our mindset was to maintain our game and possess the ball around them. Once the game got intense, the physicality escalated and took our mindset off our game plan a little.”

Despite receiving a pair of yellow cards with 10 minutes to go, the visitors were able to thrive in the emotional environment, ultimately outshooting the Dukes by an 11-6 mark in the second half.

After the loss, Duquesne’s focus immediately shifted to Sunday’s game against Rhode Island.

“We are never going to dwell in the past,” Leeder said. “We wll get up, dust ourselves off and move forward. In this conference, with how competitive it is, that’s what we need to do.”

The Dukes came out flying on Sunday. Hannah Nguyen scored just 83 seconds in, giving the Dukes an early lead. However, the Rams responded just over two minutes later when Brooke Cavino beat Virgin and tied the game.

Much of Rhode Island’s offense went through Cavino, and the Duquesne defenders were unable to contain her. She broke the tie with just under 12 minutes left with a shot from beyond the 18-yard box.

Despite a season-high nine saves from Virgin, the Dukes could not break through, and the Rams held on for a 2-1 victory.

Duquesne will square off with George Washington on Thursday at Rooney Field in what will be the team’s final regular-season home game.