Andrew Holman | Sports Editor
Defending a title is never easy, but it’s the ultimate goal of every championship team. That is no different for the Duquesne women’s soccer program.
As the Dukes begin their quest to defend their Atlantic 10 Championship, there is one key thing they must keep in mind — they won’t be surprising anyone this season.
Last November, after a 10-9 regular season, the Dukes shocked many around the A-10 Conference by defeating the tournament’s No. 2 seed Dayton in the opening round. The No. 7 seed Duquesne drew a boost of confidence from that match and rolled through the tournament all the way to their first ever A-10 title.
Now, the Red & Blue have a target on their backs. Everyone in the conference is gunning for them. Even their non-conference opponents won’t sleep on them because every opposing coach on the schedule knows what they accomplished a year ago.
What this means for the Dukes is that they need to be on top of their game each and every night. Nobody is going to look at them as just another team on the schedule. They have to bring it.
Bring it is exactly what they did Sunday night versus city-rival Pittsburgh in their first road contest of the season, in which they defeated the Panthers 2-0. Sophomore Katie O’Connor and junior Malea Fabean scored the two goals. Senior Cydney Staton and sophomore Casey Aunkst assisted on those respective goals.
It was a great bounce-back performance after the Dukes came out relatively flat in their season opener against Central Michigan, in which they seemed to experience a bit of a championship hangover.
The Dukes mustered up 12 shots in the contest with the Chippewas, but only four of those shots (.333) were on frame. In contrast, against the Panthers, Duquesne fired 10 shots at their opposition but a much more impressive seven of those shots (.700) were on goal.
The problem for the Dukes in the home opener against Central Michigan was their lack of cohesion offensively. The Dukes were not connecting on their passes in the attacking half of the field and relied solely on O’Connor and junior Linnea Faccenda to make things happen on their own with their foot skills.
In the battle with Pittsburgh, the Dukes were able to create much better chances due to a better team performance. That was evident by the two goals, which both came off of assists. In 2015, the Dukes assisted on a staggering 31 out of their 35 goals for the season, which put them at an 89 percent mark. Clearly, this is a program that has relied on their passing to lead to success and that will need to be the case once again in 2016.
With the absence of the 2015 senior class, the Red & Blue with have to replace nine goals and 11 assists from last year, which means the talented freshman and sophomore classes will need to step up even more offensively in 2016.
In the opener versus Central Michigan, the passing was not clean, and it led to a loss. In their second contest with the Panthers, it was a much different story, and it led them to their first win in 2016.
The Dukes will go wherever their passes lead them this season. Whether it will be consistently good enough to defend their conference title has yet to be determined.