Michael O’Grady | Staff Writer
Approaching the end of their regular season, the Duquesne men’s soccer team picked up an important point at Fordham on Saturday before securing a victory in their last non-conference game versus Wright State Wednesday night.
The Dukes headed east level with Fordham at 10 points in the Atlantic-10 Conference standings, both teams positioned towards the bottom of the eight-team conference tournament bracket. A 1-1 draw following the ninety minutes prompted no change in the standings, but it took a huge effort for Duquesne to get that result.
Fordham bombarded the Dukes in the first half, taking 10 shots before Duquesne managed any. It would be Duquesne on the scoresheet first, however, as late in the first half Nate Dragisich fed Jayden Da, who scored his seventh goal on the year on just the Dukes’ second shot. Duquesne would be in their own half for the rest of the night, however, allowing 14 more shots. Zoltan Nagy saved four of the five that were in on goal, but the Rams equalized with 6 minutes to go courtesy of Daniel D’Ippolito. Having lost the shots battle 24-5, the Dukes were lucky to leave the Bronx with a point and keep place in the standings.
Duquesne was allowed a break from the A-10 grind Wednesday night with their last non-conference match. Hosting Wright State, they pulled out an important team win by a score of 3-2, highlighted by a Wayne Rooney-esque strike from Ask Ekeland.
Duquesne Head Coach Chase Brooks felt the game was an opportunity to spread minutes around the squad.
“We used a lot of the roster, we got some guys some minutes that hadn’t seen some time this year yet, including Johnny Dragisich, who played the first minutes of his career.”
Dragisich came on for the first time on the same night his brother Nate broke the program record for appearances with 78. Johnny, for his part, would end up making a crucial tackle in the final minutes.
The Dukes controlled early on, breaking through at the seventh minute when Tate Mohney found the back of the net for the first time this season from just outside the box. Two minutes later, another Duquesne goal was negated for offsides, and only then did Wright State put up any meaningful pushback. Nagy’s best save of the night came during this Raider offensive, deflecting a ball out of play that was destined to go top-shelf.
At 18 minutes, Wright State pressed too much and Ekeland forced a turnover, clearing the ball downfield intended for a streaking Mohney. Sidestepping his lone defender, Mohney placed his second of the game in the bottom right corner. It was also Ekeland’s second assist of the night, but he wasn’t done.
Duquesne looked like they would cruise to a 2-0 win early in the second half, but in the 61st minute Ekeland caught the crowd off guard and got them on their feet with his team-leading ninth goal of the campaign, and perhaps his best one yet. With a lightning-quick takeaway at midfield, he launched a rocket from 45 yards out, and before anyone knew what had happened, the ball hit twine with quite a bit of air still under it.
“I’ve been trying a couple times now to shoot from far away if I see the goalie out of his place,” Ekeland said.
He had seemingly closed the book on the game with the goal, but Wright State battled back. The Raiders answered eight minutes later on a Brock Pickett header and scored on a Reece Allbaugh penalty in the 80th minute. With seconds to go, Allbaugh threw away a good chance by firing the ball into the side of the net, and Duquesne once again escaped a less-than-ideal result.
“Clearly there’s still some things we’d like to clean up, we don’t wanna give up two goals late in the game,” Brooks admitted. “But again, we’ve talked about all season how you’re allowed to bend, you just can’t break, and I think we saw that tonight and held on for the win.”
Duquesne has clinched a spot in the A-10 playoffs but has no idea what that could mean. They can finish as high as second in the conference and as low as eighth.
“We’re really excited about it,” Brooks said, “it’s just about playing for home field, and that’s what we’re gonna do. We’re gonna try and take care of business and see what happens in the other games.”
The Dukes will play the all-important final game of the regular season Saturday night at Rooney Field when they take on La Salle.