Now it’s familiar territory for the Elon University women’s soccer team, and not from the injury standpoint, but the record standpoint.
Last season, the Phoenix started conference play 1-2-2 after two weekends. This year, they’re sitting at 0-1-1 after just one weekend and coming off a flat, sloppy performance in a 2-1 overtime loss to Appalachian State on Sunday, Sept. 23.
What turned their season around last year? A match against The Citadel. The Phoenix will welcome the Bulldogs to Rudd Field tonight, followed by the College of Charleston on Sunday, Sept. 30.
After the Phoenix topped The Citadel last season with a 2-1 comeback win, they went on to win four of their final five games of the regular season. Head coach Chris Neal is hoping this year brings a similar story, but knows The Citadel is a dangerous team to match-up with.
“If you try to predict who’s going to win the game by looking at the Internet, you’ll see that they had some very bad results early on,” Neal said. “What people don’t understand is they have a smaller roster of about 20 kids, and as soon as they arrive at The Citadel, they go through a week of conditioning that a lot of college athletes don’t go through. Early on, they typically don’t come out fast in games because physically, they’re going through so much. What you see from them is a pretty good habit of once they get their legs under them, they’re really good and that’s exactly what happened last weekend.”
The Citadel gave up 18 goals in their first four games, including three games giving up 5 goals. But after watching film on last weekend’s matchups against Furman and Wofford, Neal says the Bulldogs have turned the corner and become a dangerous team to be reckon with throughout the rest of conference play.
“They should have scored a couple goals on Furman,” Neal said. “They played a very competitive game. Wofford on Sunday, they won 3-1 but I thought they could have scored five or six on them.”
When Elon welcomes College of Charleston to Rudd Field on Sunday, the Phoenix will be in search of revenge, as the Cougars defeated Elon twice last year. The wins were the first in four years for the College of Charleston over Elon.
“College of Charleston is already off to a 2-0 start and they were league runner-up last year in both the regular season and the tournament,” Neal said. “A lot of people in our fan base though are looking past The Citadel and I’m like, 'You have no idea how good that team is.’ It’s two tough games and I’m glad to have them at home.”
As for the team getting past last weekend’s depressing result against Appalachian State, junior midfielder Kimmie Krauss says it’s all about getting back to the basics of playing the game.
“We just need to go out and play the game,” Krauss said. “We cant think about other things like, ‘What are the other team’s stats?’ Just play the game, play together, be a team and communicate with everyone and everything will work out.
After a full week of practice in preparation for the two weekend home games, Neal said the result last weekend has focused the team on the task at hand with just nine games left in the regular season. So much so, he couldn’t even find the words to describe the focus.
“At one point, they were so focused and quiet paying attention that I took it the wrong way and though they were brain-dead,” Neal said. “I was wrong. They were actually all so intently paying attention that it seemed a little, what’s the word I’m looking for? I don’t know. They were focused. They were way focused. They know the first weekend doesn’t define them as a team.”
This weekend’s two homes games mark the first weekend of the year the Phoenix haven’t had to travel for one of the games on the weekend. Asked whether that would impact his team’s performance, Neal’s response was simple.
“We’ll see," he said. "I’ll tell you on Monday.”