Elon University head women’s soccer coach Chris Neal won his 100th career match as his team beat Gardner-Webb University 2-0 on Friday, Sept. 19 at Rudd Field.
As is tradition, the squad and Neal celebrated with an ice bucket dump.
“We knew tonight was going to be his 100th win,” junior midfielder Taylor Glenn said. “We went into it with a game plan and water was the way to go.”
“It’s a great stepping stone going into the [Colonial Athletic Assocation],” senior defender Bethany Houpt said.
The Phoenix was nearly gifted a goal in the opening minutes of the game. In the third minute, a mix-up in the Gardner-Webb defensive line resulted in a poor back pass that got behind junior goalkeeper Krista Chauvin. But the ball rolled right wide of goal and out for a corner.
In the 11th minute, Elon was denied its opening goal by the woodwork. Houpt whipped in a dangerous corner that was met by freshman forward Susannah Anderson, whose towering header went off the top of the crossbar and over the net.
Soon after, Houpt crossed in another dangerous ball. This time, sophomore midfielder Rachel Hallman managed a shot off, but was denied by a diving save from Chauvin.
In the 23rd minute, Gardner-Webb’s Arey Brandi found herself alone in attack down the right wing. She managed to make solid contact, but her curled effort went straight into the arms of Elon junior goalkeeper Sydney Branson.
After winning a corner in the 41st minute, Houpt sent in another dangerous ball, this time to the back post. Freshman defender Kendall Ballotti rose up and met the ball, but couldn’t steer the ball inside the post.
“Before the game, coach told me to get the ball to the back post, if I can, every time,” Houpt said. “We have some really good players who can finish balls in the air.”
Elon finally got its breakthrough at the 41:03 mark. Once again, it was Houpt who provided the scoring opportunity. It was another far post corner and Glenn headed the ball home.
“We had a play where I ran a pick off of [freshman forward] Grace Bennett in the middle to the back post,” Glenn said. “[Houpt] hit a great ball and I looked at it, said ‘it’s coming to me,’ and headed it in the goal.”
“It was real important to get that goal before halftime because I felt like we were the dominant team in the first half, and it would have been a scary feeling to go in at half 0-0 when you haven’t taken care of our chances,” Neal said.
At the 71:46 mark, Schilling gave Elon a two-goal cushion. Senior defender Mel Insley sent in an early cross which ran across the box, and Schilling slotted home from a tight angle at the 71:46 mark.
“They were still in it at halftime and we had to make sure we put another one away,” Glenn said.
The goal proved to be enough to send Elon through while racking up its second clean sheet in three games.
Elon will now turn its focus to CAA play after wrapping up their nonconference slate at 4-4. Elon will host its first CAA contest against Hofstra University at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept 26 at Rudd Field.