As the final weekend of non-conference play approaches for the Elon University women’s soccer team, many questions about the rest of the season will be answered, all while supporting a great cause Sunday afternoon against Francis Marion.

Last season, Elon welcomed the High Point University Panthers to Rudd Field for a non-conference matchup. The Phoenix topped the Panthers by a final score of 2-0, thanks to two goals from then-freshman Bethany Houpt. This season, without Houpt, who is out with an injury, the Phoenix will head to High Point for a rematch with the Panthers in a game that head coach Chris Neal said he is very excited about.

“It’s going to be a very exciting game,” Neal said. “It’s really become a cross town rivalry of sorts and both teams really get into it. There’s been great spirit between the fan bases so I expect it to be a really heated game."

On Sunday, Sept. 16, Elon welcomes Francis Marion University to Rudd Field for the team’s final non-conference game of the season. Francis Marion has been hot of late, winning their last two games leading up to the game against Winthrop on Sept. 14 before coming to Elon. Neal calls Francis Marion a “very dangerous team” because of their ability to absorb pressure from opponents and strike quickly on offense.

“They’ve had some decent results this year,” Neal said. “They’re a dangerous team because they’ve got a kid with a lot of pace up top that can really finish.”

Though Neal thought the Phoenix came out of last weekend’s tournament in Wilmington cleanly with just the one minor injury to junior midfielder Olivia Mackey, who suffered a strained quad, it was discovered this week that junior midfielder Catherine Brinkman suffered an MCL tear during the game against Campbell University. The extent of the injury is unknown, but Neal says physicians will look at her leg “in the next couple of days” to find out the extent of the injury.

“We’ll have to wait and see what they say, but hopefully it’s mild and we’ll have her back in the next two-to-three weeks,” Neal said.

While the Phoenix lose Brinkman for the foreseeable future, the team does get a couple players back into the fold in freshmen Katie Boyle and Mel Insley as well as junior defender Jennifer McGorty.

Boyle will see her first game action since the end of her junior year of high school. In June before her senior season, Boyle tore her ACL and missed all of the following season. According to Neal, the rehabilitation of her leg didn’t progress as well as he had hoped, which forced her to miss most of this season’s non-conference action.

Insley will return from a summer illness that caused fitness issues that have kept her off the field, and McGorty returns after having a lingering “stress-related issue” in her right foot.

“(McGorty) is a big part of our team,” Neal said. “She’s a captain and she’s got experience. We don’t tend to give up a lot of goals when she’s in the game and it will be nice to get her back on the field.”

All three are expected back on the field on Sunday against Francis Marion. Neal says each of the three should expect to see “10-15 minutes” on Sunday, as he works them back into the pace of the game.

Partnering with Go4TheGoal, Elon University will be hosting the women’s soccer game on Sept. 16 benefitting pediatric cancer research and awareness. During the game, both teams will be wearing gold laces in honor of the cause.

“It kind of came to us through word of mouth from the soccer community,” Neal said. “It’s raising awareness for the organization and for what they do.

Neal said over the next couple of weeks, the team will “adopt” a child from the local area that suffers from pediatric cancer. It’s something Neal is very excited to be a part of.

“This is going to be pretty cool for both the team and the child,” Neal said. “It’s going to be awesome.”

[box]Kickoff in High Point is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday night. Sunday’s home game against Francis Marion benefitting pediatric cancer research is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Rudd Field.[/box]

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