Pittsburgh, PA — The Duquesne women’s soccer team was able to defeat George Mason by a 3-2 score Thursday night extending its winning streak to a season-best four matches in the progress.
“It was a scrappy first half to be honest, we didn’t have a lot of the ball but we still managed to create some quality chances,” Duquesne coach Al Alvine said. “We’re thrilled to get the win and three points.”
All five goals in this match were scored in the second half.
The first tally came in the 59th minute when Linnea Faccenda was taken down by a George Mason defender in the scoring box, giving Duquesne a penalty kick.
As has been the case all season, junior midfielder Casey Aunkst lined up for the penalty kick and beat George Mason’s keeper Louisa Moser top left.
“It’s confidence and it’s repetition,” Aunkst said regarding her taking penalty kicks. “I played basketball my whole life and a penalty kick is like a foul shot. The more you shoot, the more confident you get and you can do it with your eyes closed.”
Just over five minutes later, junior forward Katie O’Connor took advantage of Moser being out of position. There was a loose ball and Moser cheated well out of her goal thinking Linnea Faccenda’s pass went long. Instead O’Connor, who was not off-sides while pursuing the pass, chased it down, had the better angle on the ball, made a move on her defender and scored the ball towards the middle-right portion of the net.
This goal was O’Connor’s fifth this season and 21st of her career, tying her with Audra Matthews for the program record.
“You can see not just goals and assists, but she pressures defenses, defends set pieces where she’s defending on corner and free kicks,” said Alvine. “She does it all for us, so I’m thrilled she was able to tie the record as a junior. She still has at least five more games here in the regular season and hopefully playoffs. She has a whole other year to go, so I’m hoping that she is going to completely obliterate the records here.”
O’Connor was quick to compliment the role her teammates played in tying this record both in terms of having the same end goals and the togetherness everyone has in reaching these accomplishments.
Duquesne tallied its final goal of the match at 76′ on a hustle play from freshman Lauren Bell. Bell misjudged the bounce of a ball but did not give up on the play, instead chasing down a header from a George Mason defender that was meant for Moser. Instead, Bell got to the ball and scored on the bottom right of the net as Moser had come out to receive the header.
This was Bell’s fourth goal of the season.
George Mason appeared to be out of the game but at 80′ was able to get a penalty kick after Duquesne junior keeper Kyra Murphy made what appeared to be two key saves. Even on the penalty kick, which was taken by Niomi Serrano, Murphy got her hands on the shot, but the ball still found the back of the net.
“I think it was the referee calling a make-up call on their penalty kick,” Alvine hypothesized. “If he didn’t call the penalty kick for us the first time, he never would have made that call.”
Now back in the game, George Mason’s Nia Elbeck scored a goal at 89′ putting the Patriots within one goal of squaring the match.
With limited time remaining in the contest, Duquesne was able to control the possession using up the rest of the game clock and ending the contest.
“The second goal was just a ball we didn’t deal with,” said Alvine. “It’s disappointing but these are lessons we can learn from. You can never be disappointed scoring three goals and getting three points.”
Duquesne is now 8-3-2 on the season and is tied for second place in the conference with George Washington.
A change did Duquesne good
As Alvine previously mentioned, the first half was challenging on Duquesne’s end due to a lack of touches, but instead of just letting this happen, something had to be done.
Alvine has been able to make adjustments to succession and did so again 10 minutes into the second half of play.
“We wanted to give the kids a chance at what we had talked about,” he said. “It just wasn’t happening, so we switched it up and the kids looked more comfortable and you saw the result, three goals.”
These plans are no accident according to O’Connor as each match there are multiple plans at the ready in case the original concept does not pan out as Duquesne hopes.
“There always has to be backup plans, your first plan isn’t always going to work,” O’Connor said. “Each game is different, so you can’t go into every game thinking you know what they’re going to do. The other team can switch, you can switch, so it’s really who thinks best on the fly.”
While Duquesne is unafraid of making adjustment if it betters the team’s flow, there is no set time that these adjustments are made or determined, but more often then not, the adjustments have paid off.
“There’s no rhyme or reason to it,” said Alvine. “I was close to doing it in the first half but I figured I would give it until halftime when we could get in and talk to the kids and go over some things. We just did not have the ball and weren’t creating enough quality chances.”
As previously stated, Duquesne now has a season best with four consecutive wins. Earlier in the season, Duquesne had five straight matches without a loss, but that streak included two 1-1 ties.
What makes this streak special is that it has all been in done in Atlantic 10 play which allows Duquesne to keep pace and stake its claim as one of the top teams in the conference.
“We’re playing for points now,” Alvine explained. “With the new Atlantic 10 playoff format, the top four teams in the conference are hosting the quarterfinal round, so it’s not just important to get into the playoffs, but it’s important to make the top four, just so we can host. Every game there are three points on the line and it’s going to be a battle like this. That’s not saying that non-conference games are unimportant, because they are, but it’s a different level once we get to Atlantic 10 games.”
Aunkst believes these wins have helped build the team’s confidence and with each goal scored, this belief only strengthens, which allows for better play collectively as a team.
What seemed to make Aunkst even more excited is the belief that the team is not even playing its best soccer.
“I think it’s about peaking at the right time and coming and playing together at the right time,” said Aunkst. “We are in the middle of conference play and we still haven’t reached our peak yet. We are hoping to reach that peak during the Atlantic 10 Championships.”
Duquesne will travel for its first of two road matches facing Davidson Sunday at 2 p.m. Duquesne defeated Davidson 2-0 when the two teams met at Rooney Field last season.