Elon University men’s soccer midfielder Danny Lovitz was tired of losing to Coastal Carolina University. The senior had been through all four of the team’s previous meetings — all win for the Chanticleers — in the last two years, including in the last two NCAA Tournaments. Tuesday, Oct. 29, he had a score to settle. He didn’t want his final meeting with the Chanticleers in his last year in the maroon and gold to end in the same heartbreaking fashion as the previous four.
And it didn’t.
Lovitz scored the deciding goal in his team’s 2-1 victory over the No. 6 Chanticleers on a penalty kick in the 85th minute after he had been knocked to the ground in the Chanticleers’ box.
“We take pride in a lot of our records against huge teams like (Coastal),” Lovitz said. “But (Elon’s record against Coastal) was obviously not one to hang our hat on coming into the game. I had a lot of personal vendettas to solve, on the field, not really directed at anyone in particular but against that team.”
Scoring the goal to decide the game solved those ill wills.
“We all try to control what we can control,” Lovitz said. “We work hard, stay focused and hopefully we get moments in the game where we can make the difference and it’s always awesome when you can be the one.”
It was the Elon’s second win over a ranked opponent this season, the other coming in a win Sept. 17 against then-No. 9 Wake Forest University.
Despite quality looks at goal for both sides, neither team could break through and score in the first half.
It was much of the same in the first 20-plus minutes of the second, until Elon was able to break through the Chanticleers staunch defense in the 70th minute. Senior midfielder Charles Howard sent a cross into a loaded Chanticleer box that sophomore midfielder James Brace was able to head past sophomore goalkeeper Devin Cook. The goal was Brace’s eighth on the year and gave the Phoenix a lead they appeared not likely to relinquish.
But the Chanticleers and their high-powered offense responded. In the 79th minute, a loose ball in the Phoenix box found the foot of Chanticleers senior midfielder Pedro Ribeiro, who rifled a shot from close range past Phoenix junior goalkeeper Nathan Dean to tie the game.
It was then, with all the game’s momentum having been shifted to the visitors, that Lovitz took it upon himself to end his team’s struggles against the Chanticleers.
“They were doubling me a little bit towards the end of the game when I was having success against one of the right backs,” Lovitz said. “I saw that were leaving a little bit of a space in between (the defenders) so I feigned like I was going down the line like I always do and sliced it back inside.”
With nothing but green grass ahead of him, Lovitz dribbled into the Chanticleers box, where he was fouled hard by a Coastal defender and awarded a penalty kick. There was no doubt who was taking it, Lovitz wanted to finish what he started.
After struggling in the past week to keep their opponent out of the back of the net, the Phoenix put together a solid performance in front of Dean, which was very pleasing for head coach Darren Powell to see.
“Thought the team played with some good energy and some good intensity tonight defensively,” Powell said. “And it showed. We know we have to defend as a team together and we did that well.”
Dean, who had very few high stress saves to make, pointed to his team’s pre-match preparation as the reason why the Phoenix were sound defensively. They identified the Chanticleers’ most dynamic offensive weapons and focused on keeping them from affecting the game.
“We stuck to the task of making sure that the real key players from hurting us too much,” Dean said. “When you can do that, and it starts frustrating the other team, they kind of run out of ideas at the edge of the box, and I think that’s what happened today.”
The Phoenix, who improve to 12-4-1 on the season, host local rival University of North Carolina at Greensboro on Saturday, Nov. 2, in a game that will go a long way in deciding what seed the Phoenix will be for the Southern Conference tournament, which begins Nov. 9 at campus locations around the league.
The Phoenix, at 3-2 in league play, are poised to finish the season as high as the No. 1 seed or as low as the No. 4 seed. The results will be settled depending on what happens against the Spartans, who are one spot ahead of the Phoenix in the standings, and what happens in several other conference games being played at the same time.
Meanwhile, Powell is worried about only what he can control, and that’s preparing to face a talented UNCG team.
“UNCG is a tremendous team,” Powell said. “They have a great program and a great history and have always done well in the Southern Conference. It’s a game we need to prepare ourselves for and we need to focus for. We know the game could go either way, we’re both very good teams.”
Kick between the two is set for 7 p.m.
On Sept. 14, the Chanticleers traveled to Greensboro to face the Spartans and came away with a 4-2 victory. At the time, UNCG was ranked No. 15 in the country.