The score spoke for itself Sunday, Sept. 8. The Elon University women's soccer team welcomed High Point University to Rudd Field and just as quickly as they got to the game, the Phoenix dispatched the Panthers with a convincing 5-0 victory.
Becoming somewhat of a rivalry game in recent years for the Phoenix and the Panthers, Elon dominated from the start, got on the board early and never looked back.
"The only time we've had this big of a win is against (the University of Tennessee at) Chattanooga," said senior forward Catherine Brinkman. "To beat an out-of-conference rival like this, it's very exciting. To have this many goals on this many opportunities and shots, it's a really good feeling."
The opportunities Brinkman spoke of came in droves Sunday for the Phoenix. With eight shots in each half, the Phoenix tallied the first goal of the game in the 2nd minute on a header in the penalty area from senior forward Jennifer McGorty off a corner kick from sophomore forward Nicole Dennion.
"That first goal McGorty scored tonight, there's not an (English) Premiere League forward that could have done that any better," said Elon head coach Chris Neal. "It was a true center forward's goal."
McGorty got back on the score sheet 12 minutes later, this time on a cross from senior midfielder Olivia Mackey in the 14th minute.
LAST TIME OUT: Phoenix struggle to 3-0 victory against Greensboro
Finishing crosses was a struggle throughout the added game Thursday Sept. 5 against Greensboro College. According to Neal, just nine of 29 crosses found the dangerous area of the box — not exactly where the number needed to be for success.
"Crossing was the biggest difference tonight," Neal said. "The focus in practice was saying the percentage of successful crosses wasn't good enough. We said, 'If you start getting the ball in there more frequently, we can beat teams five, six, seven to zero.' That's exactly what we said this week. And look what happened."
Another cross into the box in the 35th minute — a corner kick from senior midfielder Raychel Diver — found the head of midfielder Alissa Pantuosco. The junior headed the ball home for Elon's third goal of the game.
"The first half, our crossing was exceptional," Neal said. "Our finishing was clinical."
Sitting comfortably up 3-0, Elon could've backed off the gas, but the Phoenix kept the pressure on and scored twice more in the first 25 minutes of the second half.
"Human nature dictates we were going to rest a little bit up 3-0 at halftime and let the other team back in the game but we didn't do that," Neal said. "We showed a killer instinct tonight, which has been missing sometimes in the past."
Seconds after missing wide on a rocket from outside the box, Dennion found the ball at her feet again and didn't miss. She found the left side of the goal for her team-high fourth goal of the season.
The leading scorer last year for the Phoenix — now-senior Simi Dhaliwal — tallied three all of last season.
Dennion's goal brought a fist pump from Neal, knowing the game was well in hand at that point in the 57th minute.
"The reality is, even at 3-0, High Point is a good team and they can come back from that," Neal said. "That fourth goal, the game was pretty much over."
Brinkman finished the game off in 69th minute with a goal from the hashmark in the box.
"You look at how we started last year, to start 3-0-1 this year, it's a great feeling," Brinkman said. "If we keep this mentality with everyone in the box and the crossing and our defense keeps playing the way we're playing, we could keep this run all season. We have the numbers in the box this year, which is where we've struggled before."
Junior goalkeeper Kate Murphy was pulled in 76th minute with the Phoenix up 5-0, but she was credited with her 16th career shutout and third of the 2013 season. She now sits five away from breaking the all-time record for most career shutouts.
After three straight home games, the Phoenix go on the road to Wilmington to take on Longwood University and Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi in a tournament hosted by the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. Kickoff between the Phoenix and the Lancers is set for 5 p.m. Friday Sept. 13.