Through 84 minutes on Sunday Aug. 25, the Elon University women’s soccer team had dominated the East Carolina University Pirates.
That all changed with six minutes remaining in regulation, as the Pirates converted on their second corner kick of the match to all but pull the rug out from under the Phoenix, who at the time owned heavy shots and corner kick margins of 13-1 and 21-2, respectfully.
That is if the Pirates could hold on.
Three minutes later, the Phoenix tied the game with a goal from senior Chelsey Stark to knot the game at one. It would remain that way for the remainder of the afternoon with the teams battling to a 1-1 draw in each side’s second match of the young season.
“It took one heck of an effort from East Carolina to keep us out,” Elon head coach Chris Neal said. “They did enough to hang in there and almost ripped the carpet out from under us late. Give ECU credit. They defended incredibly well in front of the goal.”
The Phoenix had their chances, including a penalty shot with 1.5 seconds remaining in regulation because of a handball inside the 18-yard box. Senior Olivia Mackey stepped up to take the kick, but was denied when Pirates’ junior keeper Sandra Baron stopped Mackey’s shot to send it to overtime.
“I just didn’t want to go to overtime,” Mackey said. “I was trying to do everything I could to get the ball in the back of the net, but she saved it.”
Baron held strong throughout the extra 20 minutes, as she faced two Elon shots in overtime to keep the Pirates locked in the 1-1 draw.
The Phoenix also had a chance to break the scoreless tie in the 70th minute when freshman Rachel Hallman stepped up to take a penalty kick from 15 yards outside the penalty box. Her shot sailed over the wall and off the crossbar. The rebound found junior Caroline O’Dee at the top of the box, but Baron recovered to make the save.
Elon, playing just it’s second game of the season after a win to open the year Friday Aug. 23 against Coastal Carolina, dominated the Pirates on the stat sheets. The Phoenix finished with 25 shots to East Carolina’s three. Elon also won the corner kicks battle by a 14-3 margin.
“I’m really disappointed with the result today because I think we left a whole lot of goals out there,” Neal said.
While the lone Phoenix goal was put together by two seniors — Mackey and Stark — Neal credited the 12 member freshmen class for being able to slide in and allow the Phoenix to substitute without losing a step and stay fresh for the entire 110 minutes.
“It’s an incredible luxury to have that many players who can play,” Neal said. The only downside is there’s going to be good players on our team that don’t get to play. But honestly, the whole game, I’m spending more time figuring out what good player to put in than watching the game. But as you saw today, what an incredible luxury. The shot count speaks for itself. The corner count speaks for itself. That’s a good team and we dominated them. Fresh legs and good players have a lot to do with that.”
Next up for the Phoenix is the University of North Carolina at Charlotte 49ers at home on Rudd Field on Sunday Sept. 1 at 7 p.m.. With a week off between games, Neal said the Phoenix will look to work most on finishing chances and scoring goals after spending much of the preseason working on creating those chances off an aggressive defense.
“We need to work on finishing chances,” he said. “We’ve only been here two weeks. If this were our 12th or 14th game of the year, we would be highly disappointed only scoring one goal.
“We spent the first 10 days cultivating a defensive mentality. Pressure, pressure, pressure. And that’s paid off. Now, we have to cultivate other areas of the game. We’re creating a whole lot of chance off our defensive game. Now, we’ll work on finishing.”
Elon has never beat Charlotte in two matches against the 49ers. Both contests came in the 1999 and 2000 seasons when Elon was a part of the Big South. The Phoenix lost the matches 5-0 and 2-0, respectively.