It’s a phrased termed by Elon University men’s soccer coach Darren Powell about the Southern Conference tournament in November: “Three days in November.”
The women’s soccer team, behind the second goal of the season from senior midfielder Jaclyn Wood, knocked off the fourth seeded Appalachian State Mountaineers on Sunday, Oct. 28 to advance to the semifinals of the conference tournament.
“We never gave up hope,” women’s soccer coach Chris Neal said. “We’ve got a sign of a big, blown up mounted logo of the Southern Conference championship, November 2-4. Every player signed it, and it’s a reminder to every one when we walk out of the locker room of what they were working for when they step across those lines every single day. I really think that meant a lot and kept us focused.”
Through the winds and the cold temperatures left behind by Hurricane Sandy, the team started preparation on Tuesday for the second round matchup in the conference tournament on Friday against Georgia Southern.
To ease the mood, Neal borrowed an idea from other programs with the Halloween holiday approaching. The team practiced in full Halloween costumes.
“On the bus ride home from (Appalachian State,) the last half of the bus ride, I literally felt the tension sweep in and the nervousness of the weekend set in,” Neal said. “I thought that since Tuesday was a fitness day and we don’t do any contact, it was a great way to lighten the mood a little bit, have a little bit of fun and get some fitness in.”
Every player on the team came dressed as something. According to Neal, some of the hits were senior defender Claire O’Keeffe as a bundle of grapes, senior midfielder Shannon Foley as a teenage mutant ninja turtle, and sophomore midfielder Raychel Diver dressed as Wonder Woman.
“We had grapes and bananas running around today out there doing fitness,” Neal said. “Wonder Woman was out there getting the job done. It was pretty fun.”
Now just days away from a final four matchup with the Georgia Southern Eagles, Foley said the team is excited not only to still be playing this season, but get the opportunity to go on another road trip back to Birmingham, Ala.
“We’re ready,” Foley said. “We’re a super close team. This is a group of best friends and we’re excited to have another road trip, to get down there and to win some games.”
The Phoenix take on the Eagles at 5 p.m. central time on Friday evening. The winner of the game will get the winner of the Furman University and College of Charleston game that immediately follows.
“All you’re shooting for is three days in November,” Neal said. “That’s where it can all culminate and come together for you and can do something special. Here we are. We just give ourselves a chance to win it now, and we’re going to get our three days in November now, hopefully.”
Neal, Foley honored by Southern Conference
Elon University women’s soccer coach Chris Neal was named the Southern Conference Coach of the Year on Tuesday, Oct. 30, as voted on by the league’s head coaches. Senior midfielder Shannon Foley was named to the second team All- Conference.
Though it’s Neal’s name on the award and in the record books as the Coach of the Year, he attributed the award to everyone involved with the program.
“It’s extremely humbling and I’m honored, but it’s really indicative of everybody,” Neal said. “Our coaching staff, our strength coach, John McCallister, our academic staff, our trainer Jodie McConnell has been priceless. She has literally kept us together this year. But our players, they’re the most important thing.”
Now as a senior, this is the first time Foley has seen her name on the All-Conference team. Although she said she is excited about the award, she says she’s still fully focused on the game ahead this weekend against Georgia Southern.
“I’m just excited and thankful,” Foley said. “But I’m pretty much focused on the game coming up this weekend and being able to celebrate with the team.”
Foley has tallied two goals and an assist this season while helping lead the Phoenix to the semifinals of the Southern Conference tournament.
“There is nobody more deserving,” Neal said. “She is the epitome of senior leadership and coachability. All of her hard work has paid off. She’s had a perfect senior year.”