Spencer Thomas | Sports Editor
Sept. 8, 2022
The Duquesne men’s soccer team got on the scoreboard less than seven minutes into the game, propelling itself to a 2-0 victory over James Madison in Tuesday night’s home opener at Rooney Field.
The win moved Duquesne to 4-0-0 on the season for just the second time in program history, and the first since 2013. The Dukes continued their unbeaten streak when playing on the Bluff, starting off 1-0 after compiling a 7-0-1 home record last season.
“We love playing at Rooney,” said Duquesne goalkeeper Domenic Nascimben, “And I think our record shows that for sure. But to be able to see a lot of fans turn up here was really nice.”
Duquesne’s first goal was the product of a set piece. A long outswinging ball was knocked down inside the penalty box, where Jesper Moksnes shot the ball on the cage. It took a deflection, and as it sat loose on the goal line, Christoffer Vie Angell poked it home.
The goal ignited further life into an already energetic and confident Duquesne bench, as they mobbed Vie Angell in celebration.
“The locker room was something,” Nascimben said. “I’ve never seen it like that before, the atmosphere was amazing. We’re definitely feeling it.”
The Dukes continued their momentum with intense and fast-paced play. With just under 30 minutes remaining in the first half, a series of cleanly placed Duquesne passes weaved through the James Madison defense, culminating with Maxi Hopfer finding Ask Ekeland in stride. The Norwegian freshman continued with the ball at full speed, and his left-footed shot cruised past James Madison goalkeeper Drew Slack, giving Duquesne a 2-0 lead.
“I think we’ve worked really hard on that team continuity, the understanding of where each other is going to be at what times,” said Duquesne Head Coach Chase Brooks.
Ekeland’s first career goal was Duquesne’s sixth of the season, with all six being scored by different players.
“[That] is what you want,” Brooks said. “You don’t want to be a team that has to rely on one guy to get the job done.”
Nascimben added that the team is “spoiled for choice right now.”
The success coming from the fast-break was a manifestation of Duquesne’s style of play all night. The team was constantly crashing on goal, with passes sending attackers downhill for opportunities. The onslaught of fast-breaks was not something they had planned, but it was a result of capitalizing on their tenacious defense.
“We defended very, very well,” Brooks said. “When we got our chances to counter attack, we took them.”
Opportunities continued throughout the first half for Brooks’ side. Defender Torge Witteborg saw a shot deflect off the post, and Hopfer nearly missed a goal, as his shot went narrowly wide of the top left corner after taking a deflection.
As explosive as Duquesne’s offense was, the team’s defensive play continued to be strong. The shutout was their third in four games, and they have given up just a single goal so far this season.
“We work really hard on the defensive side of the ball to make sure we’re organized,” Brooks said. “We want the ball in certain areas, and we do everything we can to keep it in those areas.”
“I’m not getting as much work as I used to,” Nascimben laughed. “That’s a credit to the boys in front of me. Torge [Witteborg] is a [expletive] big leader.”
What also excited Nascimben was the defensive hustle. Despite constantly sending odd-man rushes upfield, Duquesne was resilient at getting back on defense, and before James Madison could set up possession, there were up to 10 red jerseys on the goal side of the ball.
“It’s incredible,” the fifth-year senior said. “I feel like we block a ton of shots now. And it’s making my job a lot easier. The boys are willing to sacrifice for each other.”
Brooks considered that to be a summation of the team’s attributes.
“It’s mentality, it’s fitness, it’s understanding of our principles,” he said. “And knowing that we have to continue to work hard for one another.”
Duquesne looks to make history when it hosts Howard at Rooney Field on Saturday night. A win would mark the best start to a season in program history.