The one moment that stood out to Chris Neal the most on his team’s senior day involved a freshman.
Neal said he learned a lot about freshman forward Sydney Schilling when she stepped up to take a penalty kick in the Elon University women’s soccer team’s 2-0 victory against the University of Delaware on Oct. 12.
Sophomore midfielder Kara DeGuisto was fouled in the box in the 33rd minute, which gave Elon’s its first PK of the season. Neal began to scan the field, looking for who he wanted to take it.
As he began to yell for sophomore defender Rachel Hallman, Schilling went marching up as if it had been her job all season.
Neal then turned to freshman Molly Gradl, a club teammate of Schilling’s, and asked her if Schilling had taken PKs before. Gradl said she never had seen her take one.
“That was just an interesting dynamic,” Neal said. “She looked just determined. She’s a freshman, and she wants this. Well, let her have it.”
Schilling booted the ball to the left of Delaware’s keeper for the goal to put Elon ahead 2-0.
“She just had so much confidence taking that PK,” senior forward Raychel Diver said. “She’s going to be awesome.”
Schilling is tied for the team’s lead with five points this year, coming off two goals and an assist. She’s played a vital role in the team’s offensive scheme, and it looks like that’ll be the case for the next three years.
“Sydney Schilling could run for days and never get tired,” senior goalkeeper Kate Murphy said.
• LINEUP SWITCHES: Neal switched around his back line against Delaware, moving Schilling from forward to left back while sliding junior defender Mel Insley to right back.
Hallman stayed in the center, along with freshman Kendall Ballotti — both of whom are defenders.
Senior Caroline O’Dee, a natural defender, started at forward.
“We changed some things because we have to have better 1-on-1 defending,” Neal said. “Rachel Hallman is an excellent 1-v-1 defender. She uses her body very well. We moved Mel wide right to see if she could provide service for us in games. It’s better for Mel when she has people behind her so she can just read the ball.”
“She fits there perfectly,” Diver said.
• WINDING DOWN: Elon has just three games remaining, all on the road. Next on the slate is a trip to the College of William & Mary on Sunday, Oct. 19.
The following weekend, Elon visits Towson University Oct. 24 and James Madison University Oct. 26.
James Madison is tied for second in the Colonial Athletic Association with a 4-1 mark in the league, while William & Mary is close behind at 4-2. Towson is the only team behind Elon in the standings, sitting at 0-4-1.
• MORE RECORDS: Murphy’s shutout in goal against Delaware was the 14th of her career, which moved her into a tie for fifth place in Elon history. She also recently broke the record for career games played for a goalkeeper. Her current total is 70.