After scoring the game-winning goal for the No. 19 Elon University men’s soccer team’s Senior Night match against Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) rival the College of Charleston, senior defenseman Nathan Diehl says the seniors are ready to capitalize on this last ride to the playoffs.
“This means the world to us — all 10 of us,” Diehl said.
The victory secured Elon a first-round bye and the No. 2 seed in the CAA Tournament.
The goal came on a crafty find from senior midfielder James Brace, securing the team both a co-CAA regular season championship to be shared with Hofstra University as well as a first-round bye in the conference tournament.
Diehl and Brace are two of the 10 seniors on the team this season, a class that has carried the Elon attack all season long. Five of Elon’s six highest scorers in terms of total points are seniors, with only freshman forward Jaiden Fortune breaking up the group.
The majority of seniors were part of the Elon teams that won the Southern Conference in 2012 and 2013. They even stayed afloat in the midst of a tough jump competition-wise to the CAA, finishing fourth in the conference before shouldering the majority of the load that helped complete the meteoric rise to the top this season.
“It’s bittersweet knowing that we’re winding down to the end of our college soccer careers,” Diehl said. “Some of us may want to continue onwards after this, but as long as we’re here living in the moment, we’re going to make the most of this [opportunity]. Our mindset is to win at all costs.”
With only a Nov. 4 rescheduled game against Radford University left on the regular season schedule, the focus is almost exclusively on the conference championships, with the hopes of eventually reaching the NCAA tournament. The CAA tournament begins on Nov. 7. Elon will play the winner of the quarterfinal matchup between the University of Delaware and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington Nov. 13, both of whom they beat during the regular season.
Wearing a bright grin on his face, Diehl insists the team, especially the seniors about to begin their final pursuit of higher accomplishments, is supremely confident.
“Hopefully we’ll come out of the conference tournament, and hopefully make the NCAA’s and do well,” Diehl said. “Even when the fouls and the plays aren’t going our way, we grind through it. That’s what our team is built on, and that’s just been the foundation of our successes all year.”