Spencer Thomas | Sports Editor
Aug. 25, 2022
The Duquesne women’s soccer team began its 2022 campaign this past week, winning in the season opener over Ohio Thursday before falling at No. 14 Penn State on Sunday.
After a slow start to last Thursday’s game, the Dukes found their rhythm and came from behind to defeat the Bobcats 2-1.
A free-flowing first half saw Duquesne play more conservative in the early stages.
Rarely pressing too far beyond midfield, Duquesne was happy to feast on Ohio’s miscues. That started with a takeaway just seconds into the game, with defensive pressure that induced enthusiastic cheers from the bench.
Chances for the Bobcats came when strong passing got them possession behind the midfielders. That left Ohio attackers against a helpless defense, and they had plenty of space to work with.
The Bobcats, who were picked to win the Mid-American Conference this fall, opened the scoring in the game’s 20th minute. Duquesne lost possession in its own third, leading to an Ohio shot attempt.
The attempt was blocked, but fell comfortably to Bobcat midfielder Carsyn Prigge on the left side. Her shot from outside the box careened off the right goalpost and in.
“I thought, in the first half, we created our own problems,” said Duquesne Head Coach Al Alvine after the game. “The goal that they scored was a result of us dwelling on the ball and losing possession.”
Duquesne captain Sarah Wilkinson felt there was a clear adjustment made at the halftime break.
She said that they initially planned to “play more of a low block,” but switched to high press after realizing that low block was “not [their] game.”
The audible to play more aggressively did not come from Alvine or the coaching staff, but from the players themselves.
“That was between the players and that was between the starting 11,” Wilkinson said. “As an 11, we’re kind of finding what works for us.”
Duquesne found an equalizer shortly after the halftime break. After a corner kick, the Dukes passed the ball around before an outside shot ricocheted into the six-yard box. Wilkinson pounced, poking the ball home for the Dukes’ first goal of the season and evening the score in the 49th minute.
By the time I whipped my head around I saw it was in the back of the net, and I had everyone jumping on me,” Wilkinson said.
It was the first-career goal for the fifth-year senior. Alvine added that, “If anyone deserved a goal, it was her.”
From that point on, Duquesne had a clear advantage. The Bobcats struggled to advance beyond their half of the field with any intensity. The fierce pressure allowed the Dukes to control the game, even when not in possession. They forced frantic and sloppy passes that could easily be seized and turned into offensive chances.
“The key was recognizing those moments when we can put pressure, those visual cues,” Alvine said. “Backward passes, a bad first touch where we can step in.”
Opportunities came via strong runs, particularly from Maya Matesa on the right side.
With all the momentum, Duquesne continued to mount the pressure. Brianna Moore found Matesa with a short, first-touch ball in the middle, and the striker caught it in stride. She breezed behind the Ohio center backs and slotted it past goalkeeper Celeste Sloma in the 62nd minute.
Alvine was particularly complimentary toward Matesa, a freshman.
“Through preseason, she’s really stood out as one of the sharpest players,” Alvine said. “Just so strong, so fast, she’s just a handful to deal with. And you saw when she gets opportunities, she can finish.”
Her goal was all Duquesne needed, and they rode relentless pressure to a victory.
“I think it’s just a testament to the two and a half weeks we put in,” Wilkinson said. “It was a great, great start to the season.”
On Sunday, the Dukes fell 3-0 to Penn State, who entered the game as a co-favorite to win the Big Ten Conference and was ranked No. 14 in the NCAA Coaches’ Poll.
Goalkeepers Maddy Neundorfer and Savanna Keppy combined to make nine saves in the defeat.
The team managed just a pair of shots on goal and did not record a single corner kick.
Alvine was happy to use the tough competition as an opportunity to foster development, subbing frequently. In total, 31 different players saw action during the game. Seven newcomers saw the field for the first time in their Duquesne careers.
Duquesne returns to action with a non-conference clash at Youngstown State this Thursday night.
The Dukes have not played at the Penguins since Sept. 17, 2017, a game that ended in 1-1 tie.