The Elon University women’s soccer team kept its composure despite struggles to open up the year.
After beating Jacksonville State University 2-0 in its season opener, the Phoenix has lost four straight games.
“Four straight losses is something we’re not used to,” said Elon head coach Chris Neal. “The only way to get out of a rut is to keep working harder and take the opportunities when they present themselves.”
Elon’s been outscored 13-1 in the four losses, namely a 5-0 loss to Clemson University.
“Obviously it’s a disappointment, but we’ll get there,” freshman Sydney Schilling said.
Neal said he doesn’t believe the team lacks the skill to compete. Rather, it’s a combination of different circumstances that has kept the team from producing more positive results.
“We’re playing well in certain spells and not playing well in other spells, and things just don’t seem to be going our way,” Neal said. “When you’re not playing your best for 90 minutes, and things don’t seem to be going your way, that’s a bad combination.”
The Phoenix fought hard in its losses to ranked opponents Clemson and West Virginia University, but losses to in-state rivals Appalachian State University and High Point University stung Neal the most. Elon lost 3-1 to Appalachian State Aug. 24 and 3-0 to High Point Sept. 5.
“The High Point game was very similar to the App State game for me in how it went down. The games were pretty even until they scored,” Neal said. “Even in the High Point game, we were putting them under a lot of pressure the last ten minutes. We just couldn’t get that game-tying goal.”
The Phoenix was unable to equalize and even found itself conceding twice while on the hunt for a goal. But Neal said he thought the first half was where the Phoenix failed to capitalize.
“We had two great chances to go up in the game against High Point 1-0. One clanged off the underside of the crossbar in the first half and the other was saved brilliantly by the goalkeeper,” Neal said.
He added the team has the leadership to right the ship.
“I wouldn’t say the team is getting down, but there’s certainly a level of frustration involved,” Neal said. “The captains are doing a good job focusing on the process of getting better each day and doing the small details, and hopefully, things will click.”
Neal has been tweaking with the lineup and on-field personnel throughout the season and admits it’s still a work in progress.
“We’re still going to experiment with not only player personnel, but with the rotation patterns, phases, first phase, second phase, maybe even a third phase until something clicks,” Neal said.
Neal said players have responded well to the squad’s rotation, and he doesn’t think players have been affected by playing out of position.
“We’ve got good soccer players who are quite versatile,” Neal said. “We’re not going to over-read into things and look at stuff like that. Right now we’re just looking for the right fit.”
Of 13 goals conceded by the Phoenix, 11 have come in the second half, but the team’s second-half strugglers can’t be blamed on a lack of fitness.
“It’s easy to look at the second half box score and say we’ve given up a lot of goals in the second half so fitness must be an issue, but I’m really not convinced that’s the case at this point,” Neal said.
He remains focused on preparing the team for the start of the conference season and is busy looking for solutions rather than asking more questions.