The Elon University women's soccer team fell to the College of William & Mary 2-0 Tuesday night. Despite the loss in the season finale, head coach Chris Neal was optimistic about the team.

“The feeling I have walking off the field now is one of hope, and the feeling I had walking off the field last year was despair,” Neal said.

Elon’s defense bent but didn’t break until a penalty was called on sophomore defender Molly Gradl for a foul on the Tribe’s sophomore forward Sami Grasso. Senior midfielder Nicole Baxter found the back of the net on the penalty shot in the 74th minute, and the Tribe never looked back.

Sophomore midfielder Rachel Moore added a goal in the 88th minute to seal the victory for the Tribe.

For William & Mary, the win secured a share of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) regular-season title, as they finished tied with Hofstra University.

Elon was hoping to avoid the last-place spot in the conference. Citing the school’s rocky jump from the top of the Southern Conference to the bottom of the more competitive CAA, Neal is realistic about the team’s season, and increasingly optimistic about its future.

“We’re starting to close the gap,” Neal said. “From a personnel standpoint, from an understanding the league standpoint and from an athletic standpoint. Our record in the league this year quite frankly, in my opinion, doesn’t reflect how we played.”

Elon was 1-7-1 in conference play, and the season certainly didn’t go as planned for the Phoenix in year two in the CAA. But Neal only sees bright things ahead, and with a roster filled to the brim with underclassmen, there’s little reason for pessimism.

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