By Andrew Holman | Sports Editor
It’s been exactly 349 days since the last time the Duquesne women’s soccer program lost a game against Atlantic 10 competition.
A 4-0-0 start in conference play so far in 2016, combined with a sensational Atlantic 10 title run, accounts for most of that. That undefeated mark through the first four A-10 games is a program best and leaves them all on their own atop the A-10 standings.
Last year, the eventual A-10 Champions began conference play at an underwhelming 1-3-0 mark. The 2010 season was the last time the Red & Blue even won three of their first four A-10 matchups.
So, what have head coach Al Alvine and the Dukes done so well this year? Well, a balanced scoring attack is a good place to start. Duquesne has had 12 different players record goals in the early portion of this season and seven different goal scorers in the four conference games alone. When goals can come from so many different players — both starters and reserve players — that’s a good spot to be in.
Now in her sophomore season, Katie O’Connor has begun to find her form again in 2016. After tallying a team-high 22 points (eight goals and six assists) in 2015, she has already recorded six goals and six assists through the first 13 games of her sophomore campaign. Fellow sophomore Abby Losco has added three goals and two assists, already tying her goal output from a season ago.
The 2015 recruiting class of Al Alvine continues to produce results in all phases of the game. The aforementioned O’Connor and Losco are getting it done in the scoring column, Caskey Aunkst is really the centerpiece of the defense and Kyra Murphy is having another solid year in goal for the Red & Blue. Murphy has logged over 1,100 minutes between the posts this season, started all 13 contests and has only allowed 10 goals, which gives her a goals against average of 0.78.
All four of these women were pivotal in Duquesne’s success a season ago. This class is the reason the Dukes have maintained their high level of play this season and will continue to be a contender in the conference for years to come.
However, the upperclassmen should not be overlooked. Junior forward Malea Fabean and junior midfielder Linnea Faccenda as well as senior midfielder Maddie Layman have all been vital to the A-10 winning streak. Faccenda and Fabean have combined for four goals already through just four games of conference play and have accounted for 19 points combined on the season. Layman plays more of a defensive mid role and therefore does not light up the scoreboard, however, the senior captain is a true field general and leader for a young Duquesne squad.
Now that Alvine is in his fifth season at the helm, he is coaching the players he recruited and brought into the program to play his style of soccer, and it’s certainly paying off. Alvine has shown a tremendous ability to not only recruit incoming freshman, but he has also been able to bring in some talented transfers over the years.
This season, Alvine brought sophomore forward Italia Biondi into the program after she left the University of Toledo. Biondi typically comes off the bench for the Dukes as she has started just three of her 13 matches played, but she is a valuable reserve for Alvine’s team. Biondi has one goal and three assists so far.
Alvine has brought quality players into his program and the result has been a balanced, true team. A team with multiple scoring options, a durable midfield, a reliable defense and a proven goalkeeper. There is talent in the starting 11 every night as well as the reserves coming off the bench. The reason Alvine’s bunch has found so much success in Atlantic 10 play since last October is because they give a total team effort every time they step out onto the field.
If the Dukes can continue to play as a unit and get contributions from all over the field, then this team will have a very good shot as repeating as A-10 Champions. That doesn’t mean it will be easy, but this group has a lot of heart and fight in them.
They take on George Mason (9-4-0 overall, 3-1-0 in A-10) on Oct. 13 in Virginia as they look to preserve their perfect A-10 record.