Greenville S.C.--In the 103rd minute of a golden goal overtime at the Southern Conference Championship on Sunday, Nov. 17, Elon junior Jason Waterman slotted the ball into the back of the net as the Elon University men's soccer team won its third straight Southern Conference Tournament, sinking the Wofford Terriers in a 1-0 double-overtime victoryat Stone Soccer Stadium.
With the win, the Phoenix clinched the SoCon's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament and tied the Division I school mark for wins in a season with 15. The victory also pushed Elon head coach Darren Powell ahead of Steve Ballard to become the winningest coach in program history with his 94th win.
Just over seven minutes before the game was set to go into penalty kicks, Waterman broke free and Elon sophomore Caue Da Silva found him all alone at the top of the penalty area. Waterman proceeded to beat Wofford keeper Garrett Closs one-on-one, netting the ball in the lower left corner to secure the championship for the Phoenix.
"It was an unbelievable feeling," Waterman said. "Its all a blur right now, but to be able to score there and win the championship for us is just incredible. All of the work we put in over the past few months as a team really paid off and we were able to get the win today."
Top-seeded Wofford and second-seeded Elon engaged in a fierce defensive battle that while without goals in regulation, was not without chances.
36 minutes into the game, Elon senior Matt Wescoe fired a shot from 15 yards out, which struck the crossbar and bounced to sophomore James Brace who curled the rebound just inches wide of the net.
Wofford had multiple chances from Connor Copeland go just wide of net, including a header that beat a diving Nathan Dean and narrowly missed only 35 seconds before Waterman scored the game-winner.
"We had a couple of great chances attacking during regulation but they just didn't go in," Coach Powell said. "Our defense played well and was able to hold [Wofford] without a goal long enough for Jason [Waterman] to score the winner for us."
Waterman's clutch goal and fantastic play throughout the SoCon Tournament earned him the tournament's Most Outstanding Player Award. Joining him on the All-Tournament team for the Phoenix were seniors Nick Butterly, Charles Howard and Daniel Lovitz.
This game ended Elon's run in the Southern Conference where it has competed since 2003. During the 2014-2015 year the Phoenix will begin competition in the Colonial Athletic Association.
Powell said that while the move to the CAA is exciting and will bring new challenges for the Phoenix, his team is completely focused on finishing the season on a strong note and making a run in the NCAA tournament.
Elon will find out its seeding for the upcoming NCAA Division I Men's Soccer Championship on Monday, Nov. 18, at noon. Head coach Darren Powell and several players will be in attendance in the Alumni Field House Walker Room at about 11:45 a.m. to view the selection show in an event open to fans.
Elon became the second team in SoCon history win three consecutive league titles, joining Furman, which did so from 1999-2001.
This was only the fourth SoCon Championship decided in overtime and the first since 2007.
If the game had gone into penalty kicks it would have been the first time the SoCon Championship had in 23 years.
Other teams that earned auto-bids to the NCAA Tournament on Sunday are Washington, which defeated Oregon State 1-0 to win the Pac-12 title, UMBC, which trounced Hartford 4-0 to capture the America East title and Maryland, which beat Virginia 1-0 for the ACC title.
Waterman's game-winner was his 11th of the season, which tied him with Wofford's Connor Davis for the conference lead. Elon's James Brace finished the season third in the league with 10.
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