The Elon University women’s soccer team’s streak of 24 straight matches with at least one goal came to an end on Friday, Aug. 29, as the Phoenix fell to Clemson University 5-0 at Rudd Field.
Goals from freshman forward Salma Anastasio and sophomore forward Catrina Atanda and another goal from junior midfielder Allie Kington powered Clemson past the Phoenix.
“Obviously, it’s a disappointment, but we’ll get there,” freshman forward Sydney Schilling said.
After a strong showing in the first half, the Phoenix was cut apart by Clemson scoring four of its goals in the second half.
The Phoenix went toe-to-toe with its Atlantic Coast Conference opponent in the first half, pressuring the Tigers in their own end for most of the opening minutes of play. Elon was able to keep Clemson from getting into a passing rhythm as the swarming Elon defenders picked off passes in Clemson’s own half. But it was Clemson who had the first decent scoring chance of the match.
Elon sophomore Hannah Howard, who was making her first career start for the Phoenix at right back, was caught high up the pitch, allowing Clemson freshman forward Shannon Horgan to break down the left wing. Horgan then swung in a low cross aimed at Anastasio, but her effort was cleared away from danger.
Minutes later, Horgan got the best of Howard for a second time down the left wing. But Horgan’s cross drifted past Elon junior goalkeeper Sydney Branson and Clemson’s sophomore forward Tori Andreski. Clemson got on the board in grand style at the 10:51 mark of the first half. A lovely left-footed volley from Anatsasio put the Tigers on the board.
The Phoenix looked to answer almost immediately. After forcing a turnover in its own end, the ball wound up with Elon junior midfielder Alissa Pantuosco, but she was unable to gather her feet and get off a shot.
Soon after, the Phoenix had a golden opportunity to equalize. Freshman forward Grace Bennett earned a free-kick at the top of the box after being knocked down trying to get on the end of a long ball from the Elon defense. With more than half of the players on the pitch in the wall, junior defender Mel Insley stepped up looking for her second free-kick goal of the season. Insley managed to bend the ball up over the wall, but Kailen Sheridan made an incredible save to tip the ball over the crossbar.
“There’s not many goalkeepers in the country, in my opinion, that can make that save,” Neal said.
Elon managed another shot as time expired in the first half. Fresh off her goal against Appalachian State University, junior defender Julie Hibberd had a shot go softly into the arms of Sheridan. The Phoenix felt good going into the break only being down one goal.
“In the first half, we played like we needed to play,” Insley said. “We weren’t at a disadvantage at all.”
The Tigers opened up to a fast start in the second half. Atanda scored her first goal of the evening when Insley deflected a cross into the box, but the ball landed right at Atanda’s feet and she steered the ball past senior goalkeeper Kate Murphy.
“It was a shame to see that kind of thing happen,” Insley said. “We need to do a better job responding to (goals). And knowing that at 2-0 (we) can still comeback.”
Neal called the defensive letdown in the opening minute of the second half, “unacceptable.”
In the 53rd minute, Elon looked to score again. Bennett tried to get on the end of a pass down the right wing, but Sheridan was the first to the ball. But Bennett deflected the clearance and the ball came to Sydney Schilling. Unfortunately, the pace of the ball was too much for her to control it and get a shot off on an empty net.
For the majority of the rest of the match, Clemson asserted its dominance. Horgan showed her quick feet and dribbling ability to set up the Tigers’ final two goals of the match from Anastasio and Atanda. The fourth goal was an excellent bit of team play from Clemson down the left wing. Horgan slipped behind Elon’s defensive line and played in Anastasio who curled the ball into the back of the net.
“They have skill, they played quick…and I think we just caught ball watching at some points,” Insley said.
With the win, Clemson remains undefeated at 3-0. The loss drops Elon to 1-2 on the year. The Phoenix will return to action on Sunday, Aug. 31, when it travels to Morgantown, W.V. to take on West Virginia University.