Looking Back On 2013-14; Looking Ahead to 2014-15

It’s been well discussed on this blog, on our podcast and in the forum that Duquesne had it’s most successful all around year since joining the Atlantic 10 and maybe even since entering the Elite Eight. They had a basketball championship that year and let’s be honest, that might count about as much as an NEC football share, a women’s XC crown and a volleyball championship. Still, this report from A10 Talk adds a little fire to the conversation. According to it, Duquesne had the second best all around season among Atlantic 10 programs. I don’t know what the landscape of the Eastern Eight was, but could you say the same that year?

The Dukes will look to build on their 2013-14 successes in 14-15 starting on the August 22nd literally kicking the year off.  Women’s soccer wastes little time getting to their regional throw downs against Robert Morris that evening and Pitt two days later. Al Alvine’s young 2013 squad will look to rise in the league this season as five of last year’s six leading scorers were freshman.

In the final weekend of August,  Duquesne will meet its first FBS football program in 64 years when they face University of Buffalo on the road. While a victory on the field is unlikely, just playing the game is a win for the Dukes as they look to continue to build into the NEC’s leader. They brought in an excellent class of freshman in the spring, and playing teams like Bulls annually will only put another feather Jerry Schmitt’s recruiting cap. The future looks bright, but the present doesn’t look so bad either. Last year’s champs Sacred Heart look poised to defend, but losses along the offensive line could leave them vulnerable. The Dukes also added two more FBS transfers in Wayne Capers and Armstead Williams. Last year’s late addition Chavas Rawlins will likely play a bigger role as well. I expect NEC coaches to project the Dukes to finish second, but they wouldn’t surprise me if they finally got that outright title they just missed on.

Men’s soccer begins their campaign the same weekend against Marshall in Huntington, WV. I’ll have a more detailed preview later this week, but I think they’re poised to move into contention for an A-10 title and maybe, the national spotlight.

Volleyball won their first A-10 championship last fall and have the potential to repeat. Gone are Allison Foschia, and Marah Farage, but the addition of Ohio grad transfer Lilis Kullerkann could help offset those key departures. The Dukes’ biggest challenge could come from last season’s runner up, VCU, who return their entire team.

Women’s lacrosse fizzled at the end of their 2014 campaign after flirting with the top 25 all season. However, they return enough talent that they should stay strong again this season.

On the down side, some fans have a difficult time rejoicing in anything Duquesne if men’s or women’s basketball struggle. Entering last year, women’s basketball looked ready for an NCAA tournament bid in spite of their head coaching change. Thanks to a number of squandered late leads in winnable games, the Dukes had to settle for another 20 win season and the NIT in Dan Burt’s debut. At the moment, it’s unclear whether or not the Dukes will be able repeat even the modest kind of success we’ve become accustomed to. Gone are team stars Wumi Agunbiade, Orsi Szecsi and the surprising Reagan Moore. On the surface, the revamped Dukes look smaller but more streamlined, athletic and ready to score but they’re still in year two of a shift from a defensive system to a more offensive one. JUCO transfers Deva’Nyer Workman and Emilie Gronas will likely decide whether or not the Dukes maintain their standing or fall back. Workman is a do it all workhorse of a guard while Gronas is a straight sharpshooter from three. The continued development of Josie Ann Johnson and Amadea Szamosi will also be important as the Dukes appear thin inside.

I spend enough time writing about the men on here to bother with them in this post but I do think they could see some potential improvements again this season. However, they’re still likely a year away from seriously competing.

The rest of the Olympic sports are beyond the realm of my insight. That said, I do know that the Dukes will be without an individual athlete capable of competing on a national level as distance specialist Jim Spisak finished his college career.

The athletic department is still a work in progress, but we’ve already seen some of the fruits of their labor last year. I see no reason why they won’t continue to build on it and I wouldn’t be surprised if they continue to hang banners and collect trophies again this season. I also would not be surprised if we end up in a national top 25. While the success has not reached Duquesne’s highest profile sports,  athletics overall has collectively reached a point where its among the best in the league. The athletic director, his staff and coaches now face the challenge of maintaining that success and building on it to where the Dukes compete on a national level.

 

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