It ain’t over until it’s over, right?
In a match-up of two of the highest scoring women’s soccer offenses in the country, Elon University faced a number of deficits against Furman University, the first-place team in the Southern Conference.
But the Phoenix never gave up, coming back from margins of 2-0 and 3-2 to earn a 4-3 victory over the visiting Paladins, capped by two goals off the foot of freshman midfielder Kelly Siewers in the final 12 minutes of play.
The win snaps a three-game stretch in conference play in which Elon failed to come through with a victory, instead settling for a pair of ties and a loss.
“We had been struggling from a chemistry standpoint,” said Elon head coach Chris Neal. “Even though our conference record was .500, we were incredibly disappointed. We genuinely felt that we could be 4-0 coming into this game. It felt like we didn’t have our mojo, so to speak.
“For us to get a victory against a team of that caliber in this type of game where you’re behind, it was like a storybook scenario. I think we’ve got our mojo back.”
It took less than 17 minutes of action for Furman to take a 2-0 lead, as sophomore forward Jamie Alexander and freshman forward Carlie Couch provided goals for the Paladins. Alexander’s came in the 14th minute when she got loose in front of the net and took an assist from junior midfielder Hannah Stanifer and booted it past Elon junior goalkeeper Kate Murphy. Couch dribbled right around a handful of Phoenix defenders in the 17th minute and took a shot from the right side of the box, with Alexander and junior forward India Robinson providing assists.
“We expected goals today,” Neal said, noting that Furman’s offense is ranked No. 7 nationally, “But I didn’t expect us to give up some of the goals we gave up. We have to sort that out.”
Trailing 2-0 late in the half, Neal sent in his first wave of substitutions with the message, “Get the goal back before halftime.” And that they did, as senior forward Kendall Stanley put a header right over the fingertips of Furman goalie Maggie Grisell in the 36th minute to cut the deficit in half.
“We practice this kind of mindset,” said senior defender Olivia Mackey. “Our team is built on situations like this, not letting one or two goals get us down. When we went down 2-0, we still had half the game left. Soccer can go any way you want it to go.”
It was Mackey who tallied the equalizer for the Phoenix in the 47th minute, booting one off the left post and into the back of the net from 40 yards out. Elon began to play with a new shade of momentum, until Couch recorded her second goal of the afternoon in the 54th minute to give Furman a 3-2 advantage.
Couch took a cross from sophomore defender Kristen Baker and put it just past Phoenix goalie Sydney Branson to once again force Elon to come back.
The host Phoenix had its chances, but the Paladin defense held its own. Three corner kicks by Mackey brought no success, and the clock ticked down under 12 minutes before the equalizer would come.
A header by Siewers off a corner kick from Mackey in the 79th minute tied things up again, this time at 3-3, and gave the Phoenix life again.
“We’ve scored a lot of goals off corners this year,” Neal said. “The last couple games, we got complacent and weren’t focused on the quality of service that was getting in. Today, we had good service, and that made all the difference.”
Two corners by Furman and one more by Elon brought no scoring, but with less than three minutes to play, Siewers came up big again. The ball was being kicked around in the box after a shot, and Siewers took a pass from freshman midfielder Sarah Henson and put it in the back of the net to give Elon the 4-3 win.
“It was awesome, but ultimately, it was a team effort,” Siewers said. “I have to give (Furman) a lot of credit, (their defense) was really tough. We worked really hard and worked together to get those goals.”
The loss is Furman’s first in the SoCon, dropping them to 10-3-1 overall with a 4-1 mark in the league. On the contrary, Elon earns its first SoCon win since a 3-1 triumph over Western Carolina University on Sept. 26.
“We’ve been struggling in conference games since Western,” Mackey said. “Our team really needed this win, both for ourselves and for the placing in the conference.”
The Phoenix tied both Wofford College and Appalachian State University, while losing to The Citadel before entering Sunday’s game.
Elon improves to 8-2-4 overall, 2-1-2 in the SoCon. Next up is a trip to Georgia Southern University on Friday, Oct. 18, at 7 p.m.