Spencer Thomas | Staff Writer
Nov. 18, 2021
After upset victories over third-seeded Saint Joseph’s and second-seeded Rhode Island, the Duquesne men’s soccer team’s quest for an Atlantic 10 Conference title ended with a 2-1 loss to top-seeded Saint Louis in the conference’s championship match on Sunday.
The game, which was a true road game against the eighth-ranked team in the country, was about as tall of a test as Duquesne could’ve been faced with.
However, despite having not faced each other in the regular season, Head Coach Chase Brooks sent his squad out with a solid plan.
“We knew it was going to be a tough game,” Brooks said. “I felt our guys, especially early in the game, responded extremely well.”
Early energy saw the Duquesne forwards pepper the Saint Louis net with shots in the opening minutes of the game before finally breaking through in the 13th minute. Ryan Goodhew sent a cross flying into the box, where it found the leaping head of teammate Jayden Da.
Da used his height to soar above the crowd of defenders, and he bounced a corner into the far netting. His first-ever goal as a member of the Dukes gave sixth-seeded Duquesne an early advantage.
However, Sunday’s lead would prove to be a difficult one to keep, especially against Saint Louis’ quick-strike offense.
The Billikens struck back in the 25th minute, when Simon Becher collected a rebound from Duquesne goalkeeper Domenic Nascimben and tapped it in, tying the score.
Just two minutes later, Saint Louis grabbed the lead when a shot from Christian Buendia’s foot found its way through a crowd of bodies and past Nascimben.
Despite surrendering a pair of back-to-back goals, Nascimben locked in and gave the Dukes a chance to stay in the game. He made a career-high-tying nine saves in the defeat.
Brooks knew that his goalkeeper’s performance allowed his team to have a shot.
“Dom has been fantastic. He made some great saves today,” Brooks said. “He’s an elite-level goalkeeper. He’s one of the best goalkeepers in this conference and we’re looking forward to next year with him.”
Regardless, spectacular defense didn’t materialize into offense for the Dukes. In the game’s second half, Duquesne was able to manage just two shots.
Thanks to lockdown defense, Saint Louis was able to preserve its lead and secure the victory.
Despite the loss, it was a season of growth. Duquesne hadn’t appeared in a conference championship game since 2002, but still found a way to pull off two upsets and go head-to-head with the country’s eighth-best team all the way to the end.
With the mindset shifted toward 2022, Brooks is proud of his team’s resiliency all season long.
“This was a learning experience for us. I don’t think anybody outside of our program thought we’d be at this point this season,” Brooks said. “We just need to make sure we learn from our experience and continue to move forward.”
Brooks also believes that the run to the A-10 title game was just the start.
“There were a lot of good learning moments today and a lot of good things we can take from this so we can get better for next year.
“This is the standard. This is where we want to be.”