The Elon University men’s soccer class of 2011 knew Father Time was at some point going to catch up with them and their time with the Phoenix would have to end. Despite the possibility that their season could extend into a fourth straight NCAA Tournament appearance, it appears unlikely after a disappointing quarterfinal exit in the Colonial Athletic Association tournament.
The Phoenix fell 2-0 to Northeastern University Nov. 8, leaving Elon with a remote chance at an at-large NCAA Tournament bid.
It was an abrupt and agonizing end to what was a historic four years for the program.
“It’s hard to swallow,” said senior defender Austin Dunker. “I’m heartbroken. I’ve been blessed to play here. You never want it to end, but it is going to end eventually.”
Two of the standouts in the class, goalkeeper Nathan Dean and forward Jason Waterman, have left their marks on the program, rewriting the record books and cementing their names into the discussion of the greatest players in program history.
Dean, who has been between the pipes for the Phoenix since the time he stepped on campus, has 25 career shutouts, the most in school history, and 254 saves to his credit. Waterman, meanwhile, has 19 career goals, nine assists and 47 total points.
The other three in the class, defender Tommy Allen, midfielder Eliot Browarsky and Dunker, were key cogs in a dominant back line that was consistently among the nation’s best in goals allowed.
It isn’t just their individual achievements and honors that make the senior class memorable. The group came in and immediately changed the culture and direction of the program, helping to guide it to its first ever Southern Conference Tournament championship and NCAA tournament appearance in 2011 as freshmen.
In their next two years, they helped guide the Phoenix to its first two regular season conference titles and second and third postseason championships. The class went to the NCAA tournament in each of its first three years and, in its third try, finally advanced to the second round on Waterman’s decisive penalty kick to beat Clemson University.
“What they’ve done for our program is terrific,” said Elon head coach Chris Little. “They’ve had such a great career and have had unprecedented success. I’m so proud of what they’ve accomplished.”
Overall, the class of 2011 has 45 wins in its four years, the most of any class in program history. But it’s the camaraderie more than any of the statistical feats Waterman will miss most about his time with the Phoenix.
“When [former players] are asked what their lasting memories are from Elon, it’s always about their teammates. It’s never about the on-field accomplishments,” Waterman said. “They say it’s not so much what you’ve done but who you’ve become by what you’ve done. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without this program and these teammates.”