Tales from the road: Duquesne athletes share their travels

Colin Phillips | Special to the Duquesne Duke

Colin Phillips (right) is a junior defenseman for the Duquesne men’s soccer team. The Dukes recently travelled to Philadelphia for a two game road trip. Here is Colin’s account of the weekend.

Days 1&2:

As the professor rambled on, my foot couldn’t stop tapping. Anxious tapping; a byproduct of my excitement for the start of conference play and the road trip to Philadelphia. My eyes methodically moved from the professor to the clock and back … any minute now, I thought. As the professor wrapped up, my bags were already packed and her final words of dismissal sounded, to my ears, like a starting gun as I raced out of the room.

As I approached the travel bus I saw my teammates walking towards the bus with the same excited kick in their steps. After a quick stop in the locker room for gear, the bus was loaded. Unlike previous years, there were no distinct areas of the bus designated for certain classes – a testament to the new sense of unity felt within the team. Pillows, earphones and textbooks came out of bags as everyone made themselves comfortable. A quick head-count was the last formality needed before the bus departed.

Having dozed off, I awoke later to music and clapping. Arnaud Cesarini and Kadeem Pantophlet were drumming and clapping along to a French song that I couldn’t quite make out. Before I knew it I was drumming along on the window, providing a deep underlying beat. Martin “Baby-Jet” Fiemawhle, Filip Velasevic and Nick DiSomma all joined in, creating a surprisingly coherent union of beats. Josh Ellis tried his best to clap along, but it became quickly apparent that his skill set is more geared towards the soccer field. The symphony of beats carried on for a few songs, and before we knew it, we’ve arrived in Philadelphia.

Before heading to the hotel we headed to Olive Garden. A lenient dollar limit gave us plenty of options to choose from. Between the unlimited salad and bread, as well as the main dishes, everyone left the restaurant wondering why they ate so much. Stomachs full, the bus took us to the hotel where we were given our rooms. Once the rooms (and roommates) were handed out, we decided to do one last thing before heading to bed: a quick jog and stretch as a team to loosen up the muscles that had become stiff from the long bus ride. 10 minutes did the trick, and everyone headed to bed.

We woke for 8 a.m. breakfast and then hopped on the bus. LaSalle University was the destination, despite our 7 p.m. kick-off time. The purpose for our morning excursion was to get a feel for the surface of the playing field before having to play on it. We arrived to what Coach Chase Brooks accurately described as a “bowling alley”. LaSalle’s field was just that: long and skinny. We spent 30 minutes testing out our ball control on the foreign surface, just long enough to feel confident going into the evening’s game. On the way back from the field we stopped at Panera for lunch. With our tanks re-filled, we made our way back to the hotel for our final preparations.

Each guy prepares differently. Some sleep, some read, some listen to music, some relax and some socialize. Regardless, each of us spent the afternoon preparing for the game. When 4:30 p.m. came around, we gathered our gear and left for the field. After an hour of battling through Philadelphia traffic, we arrived at the field. At this point it was pouring rain, so we rushed into the locker room to change. An hour before kick-off we headed out to the field and began warming up. With the rain falling heavily down on us, we did not waste any time getting moving to stay warm. After our usual warm-up routine, the time finally came: kick-off.

We started well – good ball movement, good defensive organization and a few dangerous moments. Failure to defend a corner kick put us down 1-0 midway through the first half. However, we responded well, with Simon Gomez slotting in a shot later in the first half to send us into halftime tied 1-1. The second half started similarly; we appeared to have the better of the ball possession and had some good moments. Unfortunately, we were caught on a counter-attack and LaSalle took the lead 2-1. With time running out, we threw numbers forward to get a goal back, and they put another goal past us to finish us off.

Exhausted, disappointed and upset, we headed back into the locker room. Nothing much needed to be said, we knew that we didn’t get the job done, and that our focus had to be on Sunday’s game. Coaches would dissect the game film and have film study the following day to learn from the mistakes we made in the game. After cleaning up, we made our way back to the hotel. With our post-game meal provided on the bus, most of us headed straight to bed upon arriving back at the hotel.

Days 3&4:

9 a.m. seemed to come around quickly. Breakfast was first on the agenda, followed by reboarding the bus. This time our destination was downtown Philadelphia for some sightseeing. With the government shutdown, there was little sightseeing that could be done, and so the majority of time was spent roaming downtown Philadelphia. Luckily the rain decided to hold off, which made the time that much more enjoyable. With downtown seen and a Philly cheesesteak in my stomach, I got back on the bus. Once back at the hotel, we did a jog/stretch for recovery; low-intensity soccer-related movements with dynamic and static stretching followed by foam rolling and resistance band stretching. Following the jog/stretch we had some downtime before heading out for dinner.

Saturday’s dinner was provided by California Pizza Kitchen. This time, the food had already been ordered for us, and so we arrived to a beautiful layout of pasta, salad, pizza, bread and, of course, water. Forgetting how we felt after stuffing ourselves at Olive Garden, we did the same thing at CPK. The leftover food was boxed up for us to bring back to the rooms for a late night snack. After arriving back at the hotel there was one thing left to do for the day: film study. We were broken up into our positions and given a time slot. The defenders and I met coaches down in the hotel lobby for our film session at 7 p.m. While a lot of the clips were of positive moments in the game (like I mentioned, the game was good overall), watching the film made it pretty clear where we had made our mistakes. We discussed the adjustments we were going to make for Sunday and headed back to the rooms. Following the defenders were the midfielders, then the forwards. With a game plan for Sunday, we headed to bed with one thing on our minds: 3 points against St. Joseph’s.

Once again, 9 a.m. seemed to roll around quickly. This time, kick-off was at 1 p.m., so we made our way to the field following breakfast. A shorter bus ride over meant more time to get ready and focused in the locker room. Again, each guy went through his own personal routine to get prepared. An hour before kick-off rolled around and we headed out to the field. Warming up for the game proved to be surprisingly difficult: the combination of the wind, playing surface, and ball was very different from what we were used to. As a result, it took everyone extra time to get a feel for the environment that we were about to play in.

Eventually, kick-off came about. Having lost the coin toss, we were defending the goal that faced right into the wind. We knew that we would have to be extra cautious with our clearances and our defensive shape to account for the wind that was at our opponents back. We had some good moments, but the half wasn’t very pretty. We held our own against St. Joseph’s and their wind advantage, and made it into the half tied 0-0. We were feeling confident knowing that we would have the wind at our backs for the second half, and headed back onto the field with an extra burst of energy. With Friday’s loss still fresh in our memory, we dominated the second half, putting 3 goals past St. Joseph’s thanks to Kadeem Pantophlet, Chris Alescio and Martin Fiemawhle. The final whistle sounded and we celebrated a well-deserved win.

With spirits much higher than Friday night, the bus ride back home was electric. The weekend didn’t go exactly as planned as Friday’s disappointment wasn’t completely forgotten. However, the win on Sunday made the bus ride back that much more enjoyable. For those players who are new to the team this year, they now know what conference is all about. Now we must take this energy and ride it through the rest of our conference games.