The Elon University men’s soccer team started Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) play Sept. 18 with a 3-1 victory over Drexel University. While Drexel is not expected to contend for a conference title, the Phoenix will have plenty of competition in winning the conference championship and earning an automatic bid into the NCAA tournament.
Last season, CAA teams earned two spots in the NCAA tournament, with the University of North Carolina at Wilmington advancing to the second round, where the Seahawks lost to eventual national champions University of Virginia.
Despite the hot start, head coach Chris Little isn’t getting ahead of himself.
“The CAA is so tough and so competitive, you just concentrate on the next game,” he said. “In our league, if you look past any games you’re in trouble.”
Drexel University (1-6-0, 0-1-0 CAA)
The Phoenix opened up CAA play against the Dragons Sept. 18., who do not have a single player named in the preseason all-conference team. Drexel struggled in the CAA last year, winning just one of its nine matches. Only one of Drexel’s three highest goal scorers return, junior defender Jameson Detweiler, who had two goals last season. Junior goalkeeper Tyler Afflerbach has been a mainstay in net for the Dragons, starting every match but two in his career so far.
University of Delaware (3-3-1)
Led by preseason CAA Player of the Year junior forward Guillermo Delgado, Delaware was named preseason favorites to take home the conference title, receiving five of the nine first-place votes. The Blue Hens had two players on the Preseason All-CAA Team — Delgado, who led Delaware with 12 goals last year, and senior midfielder Joe Dipre. Elon’s loss to the Blue Hens in the regular season finale last year gave Delaware home-field advantage in the conference championship, only to fall to James Madison in the final.
College of William & Mary (2-2-2)
The Tribe was picked to finish tied for seventh in the preseason poll in large part because of their struggles at home last season, where they won just one conference match. Two players received honorable mentions on the preseason all-conference team: brothers Jackson and William Eskay. Jackson, a senior midfielder, appeared in all 18 matches scoring a goal and adding two assists, while sophomore midfielder William scored four goals, finishing second on the team in points.
Northeastern University (0-3-2)
Sophomore forward Frantzdy Pierrot returns as the co-leading scorer last season with five goals. The Haitian native will have to carry more of the offense burden, as fellow co-leading scorer from last season Brad Fountain ’15 graduated. Though, the Huskies have struggled to find the back of the net this season scoring only two goals and having been shut out in three matches.
University of North Carolina at Wilmington (5-1-1, 0-1-0 CAA)
Elon’s instate rival has had an equally hot start to the season, before losings its first conference match 2-1 to Hofstra Sept. 19. CAA All-Rookie defender Brayden Smith returned to the team that advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Junior goalkeeper Sean Melvin also returned and has kept two clean sheets in his last three matches in victories over Duke University and the University of South Carolina. The Seahawks were picked to finish second in the CAA preseason poll, receiving two first place votes.
James Madison University (0-5-1)
Reigning CAA champion James Madison is predicted to drop off this season. The Dukes were voted fourth in the preseason CAA rankings despite receiving two first-place votes. The team is led by first-year head coach Tom Foley, who is very familiar with the Dukes program after spending 13 seasons as an assistant for long-time head coach Tom Martin. Junior midfielder Connor Coward returns as the team’s leading goal scorer with five goals and four assists last season. Junior goalkeeper Kyle Morton also returns after recording nine clean sheets last season.
Hofstra University (6-1-0, 1-0-0 CAA)
Hofstra was one of three teams tied for first place in the CAA standings last season. They have two Englishmen in the Preseason All-CAA team: junior defender Harri Hawkins and junior midfielder Joseph Holland. The Pride were picked to finish third in the preseason, despite being the only team in the top four to not receive a single first-place vote. Hofstra will have a major hole to fill in its forward line, as their leading goal scorer from last season – Maid Memic, who scored 10 of the team’s 24 goals – graduated. The Pride have done a good job so far, as they have 11 goals in seven games so far this season — including two goals in each victory over ranked opponents (2-1 over #15 Syracuse University, 2-0 over #24 UNCW).
College of Charleston (3-3-1)
Winless in their last nine conference matches, the Cougars finished at the bottom of the CAA last season and are predicted to finish last again this season by the preseason rankings. College of Charleston’s two draws in conference play came against Delaware Oct. 25 and Drexel Oct. 11 — both 2-2 draws. Junior forward Nico Rittmeyer returns as the leading goal scorer from last season. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill transfer scored five goals for a Cougars team that scored only 15 goals in 16 matches. The Cougars struggled last weekend, losing 3-1 to University of California, Santa Barbara and 2-1 to California Polytechnical State University, San Luis Obispo.