The past two-plus years have been tough for Elon University men’s soccer redshirt sophomore forward Chad Craig.
Frequent injuries have kept the budding star out of the lineup for long stretches of his time with Elon. Yet, he stayed resilient, got in game-shape while sidelined and finally, finally, got the goal he had long coveted at the end of the first half of Elon’s 2-0 victory over Drexel University on Oct. 18 at Rudd Field.
“I’m so happy for him,” Elon head coach Chris Little said. “Everybody with the program is thrilled for him. He’s had such a tough two years with a string of tough injuries and bad luck. He’s had to deal with a lot of setbacks but he’s shown great character to come back. I’m incredibly proud of him.”
The feeling after seeing the ball hit the back of the net, Craig said, was unlike anything he had ever experienced before.
“It felt awesome, like nothing else I’ve experienced in my two-plus years at Elon,” Craig said. “I’m finally healthy and back on the field after two years of being injured and I finally got that first goal. It was an awesome feeling when I saw it go in.”
The win was also vitally important for the Phoenix, as it extended its unbeaten streak to four games and its winning streak to three games. What’s more, the win came against the reigning Colonial Athletic Association champions, who had swept the regular season and conference titles last season.
“I would describe our performance as ‘professional,’” Little said. “Drexel dictated possession at times and had the better of play at times but we were able to start breaking forward more often with more numbers and we became more dangerous when we were able to do that.”
The Phoenix came out attacking relentlessly and had several quality chances in the games early going. It finally broke through on a beautiful individual move by junior forward Caue Da Silva.
Da Silva dribbled through four Dragons defenders to the top of the Drexel box, where he slipped a low, hard shot past Dragon’s sophomore goalkeeper Tyler Afflerbach and into the lower left side of the goal.
Then, right before halftime, Craig netted his first career goal as a member of the Phoenix. Freshman defender Jonathan Coleby sent a ball over the top of the Dragon’s defense to Craig at the top of the Drexel box.
Craig let the ball bounce once, and then sent a one-timer to the left of Afflerbach and into the lower right hand corner of the goal to give the Phoenix a 2-0 cushion.
The stingy and stout Elon defense held the Dragon’s offense at bay, and collected their eighth shutout in 14 games.
With the win, the Phoenix moves to 7-4-3 overall, and 3-1-1 in Colonial Athletic Conference play, while the Dragons fall to 5-7-3 overall, and 1-3-1 in conference play.
The Phoenix will play its last nonconference match of the year on Tuesday, Oct. 21 against Duke University. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.