“It just wasn’t meant to be,” Elon University women’s soccer head coach Chris Neal said following Friday’s double overtime loss to Georgia Southern University in the semifinals of the Southern Conference tournament.
Freshman forward Emily Hirano gave the eighth-seeded Eagles the victory in the 102nd minute on a header from six yards out.
“They created a two versus one with (junior midfielder) Kimmie Krauss on the left side,” Neal said. “The rolled the ball wide, (senior forward Courtney Collins) took a touch, crossed it in and it found the head of (Hirano) about six yards out for the game winner. It was a nice goal.”
After making the eight and a half hour trip to Birmingham, Ala. for the second time in two weeks, the Phoenix came out attacking against the Eagles, earning three corner kicks in the first half-hour of the game.
Freshman forward Nicole Dennion almost gave the Phoenix the lead in the 16th minute with a shot that sailed just left of the goal, then fellow freshman Taylor Glenn got a good look on goal in the 27th minute with a header off a corner from junior midfielder Olivia Mackey.
“We were totally ready to go for this one,” Neal said. “We were excellent in the first half and we were definitely the better team in the first half.”
The playing field evened out after halftime though, but still, neither team could find the back of the net. Legally, that is.
Glenn did bury the ball behind Eagles junior goalkeeper Kate Merson, but the goal was called back because of a simultaneous foul call.
After a “back and forth” first overtime period, the Eagles broke though for the goal to send them to the tournament final.
“We played great tonight,” Neal said. “It just didn’t happen and I can’t explain why.”
On the season, the Phoenix played in nine overtime games, eight of them going to double overtime. In those games, the Phoenix was 0-3-6.
The loss marks the end of the careers of the team’s four seniors: midfielders Shannon Foley and Jaclyn Wood, defender Claire O’Keeffe and goalkeeper Shannon Cosgrove.
“I’m definitely going to miss playing the game and especially the everyday things with the team,” Wood said. “They’re all of our best friends. It’s the little things that go on in the locker room and at practice, the bus rides and just handing out with the girls all the time, it’s just going to be really different.”
The jumpstart Eagles will take on Furman University on Sunday for the Southern Conference tournament championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
“Even in the loss tonight, our kids just played awesome,” Neal said. “Their effort was incredible. We just have to tip our hats to Georgia Southern. They played a really good, exciting game of soccer, but I’m still extremely proud of this team.”