Isaac Newton’s Third Law of Motion states, “For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.” Little did Newton know, his law would be used for more than just science.
The Elon University women’s soccer team brought the law into the world of sports with its 2013 recruiting class — one that features 12 new additions to the team as well as two transfers, both of which came from Clemson University.
With numerous knee injuries, including multiple torn ACLs in 2012, the Phoenix had a lot of question marks entering the season — ones that could only be remedied by bringing in more recruits as insurance.
“Initially, the recruiting class started off as a smaller class,” said Elon head coach Chris Neal. “Then all of the injuries started piling up and it got bigger by design. We knew we had a lot of kids coming off knee injuries and surgeries so they were big question marks. We didn’t want to put ourselves in the same situation as last year.”
With 12 capable freshmen entering the fold, the existing injuries became less of question marks and more of periods, largely for the better.
“[Sophomore defender] Mel Insley still is recovering from a torn ACL in the spring against [University of North Carolina at] Chapel Hill,” Neal said. “Other than that, we have 33 healthy bodies. The things we can do this year compared to last year are night and day.”
Senior forward Catherine Brinkman agreed with Neal, saying injuries from last season are not really a factor this season.
“We look really strong,” she said. “The returning ACL injuries and any of the prior knee injuries look fit and healthy and really strong and we’re excited to have them back.”
Murphy’s law reads, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.” According to Brinkman, that defines the 2012 Phoenix to a T. The other side of the law could also describe the current state of the 2013 team.
“Teams that have bad years hopefully come back stronger,” Brinkman said. “Knowing us now, though, with 33 girls, we’re not going to have a single injury just because we have a huge roster and I can see us not having a single injury because of it.”
With such a large class that is loaded with talent, according to Neal, it’s tough to pinpoint a few players that will shine.
“There’s a handful that have stood out,” Neal said. “So far, fitness levels have been off the charts, and they’re also good players. Kelly Siewers from Richmond has been great. Kara DeGuisto from Virginia has been excellent. Alissa Pantuosco, [a junior] transfer from Clemson, has had a great couple of days. Alexis de Groot, phenomenal. All of them, though, have exceeded my initial expectations of what we thought we were getting.”
Senior defender Jennifer McGorty echoed Neal, saying there is really a handful of players the Phoenix will see contribute in big proportions in 2013.
“I think you could say any of them,” McGorty said. “It’s a very, very strong class.”
Neal projected many of the freshmen will see game action right away, including starts from many of them.
“They’ll jump right in. You’ll see a lot of minutes,” he said. “You’ll see a lot of substitutions this year. You’ll see a lot more energy. We’re capable of playing much more of an uptempo, pressing style of defense, which in turn will lead to the faster game.”
Through two games, 10 newcomers have seen game action for the Phoenix with three of them getting starts. Of the three starters, freshmen Rachel Hallman and Erin Tanhauser have started both games.
Pantuosco has played in both games, including scoring the first goal of the season Aug. 23 against Coastal Carolina University on the way to a 2-0 victory.
Neal acknowledged the competition between freshmen for playing time, but Brinkman said the chemistry between the team keeps it from getting too cutthroat.
“It’s fun competition,” Brinkman said. “We’re each other’s best friends. We all get along. It’s hard to hate each other when nobody is out to get anyone.”