“Holy crap, holy crap, holy crap. What’s going on?”
After the Elon University women’s soccer team defeated fourth-seeded Appalachian State in the first round of the Southern Conference tournament Sunday 1-0, those were the words head coach Chris Neal uttered when he got back on the bus to come home.
What was he reacting to?
He wasn’t reacting to his team beating Appalachian State. It was a reaction to the results coming in from around the league.
“The results are looking very interesting at this point to say the least,” Neal said.
On the afternoon, three of the top four seeds in the tournament were upset by the lower seeded team, including the top two teams: regular season conference champion University of North Carolina at Greensboro and runner-up Samford University.
The only home team to survive the day was Furman, and even sixth seeded Davidson made a push that came up a goal short, losing 3-2.
“This just makes everything very, very exciting,” Neal said.
Elon finished the game with six shots, two on goal, but it was enough to dispatch the Mountaineers from the tournament as senior midfielder Jaclyn Wood found the back of the net in the 33rd minute for the game’s only goal.
Junior midfielder Olivia Mackey served a corner kick into the box. The ball bounced off an Appalachian State defender and out to Wood 10 yards out. Wood put the loose ball home for her second goal of the season just one day after her 22nd birthday.
“Off the corner, Olivia played a really good ball in,” Wood said. “I don’t really go in the box on corners. I usually just stay out for anything that pops out and it came out so it worked our perfect."
Junior forward Chelsey Stark, returning after missing two games with a high-ankle sprain, nearly gave the Phoenix a two-goal lead on separate occasions, but the Mountaineers defense held strong.
“The girls played fantastically today,” Neal said. “It was a great finish. We limited App State’s chances. We dictated the tempo of the game. We weren’t perfect, but it was as close to perfect as you could be. We were very, very good today.”
For the second time in two weeks, the Phoenix will make the eight-and-a-half hour road trip to Birmingham, Ala., for the conference semifinal matchup with the Georgia Southern Eagles Nov. 2.
Wood doesn’t think the trip will have an affect on the team because of the fact that it is the conference tournament.
“It’s a long trip ahead but we feel like things are going our way and this is our year,” she said. “We’re really excited no matter if it’s an eight hour drive or not.”
Neal voiced a somewhat similar opinion.
“I’d drive to California right now for a conference championship,” he said.