In its final match before Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) play begins, the Elon University women’s soccer team got a first-half goal from each of its young, speedy forwards to beat Davidson College 2-0 Thursday night at Rudd Field.
Freshman forward Taylor Paradoski scored in the 17th minute for her first collegiate career goal and sophomore forward Tori Baliatico found the back of the net in the 28th minute, something that encourages head coach Chris Neal ahead of conference play.
"I think we took a big step forward today,” Neal said. “I'm not going to say we have all the answers yet — we're still figuring things out a little bit. I know every single conference game is going to be an absolute dog fight, and we're going to be ready for every one."
Elon got on the board in the 17th minute, when junior forward Sydney Schilling beat Davidson sophomore goalkeeper Alex Carpenter to the ball 15 yards from net to the left of the goal. Schilling’s cross to the middle found Paradoski, who redirected the ball into an empty net from seven yards out.
“Coach always has us talking about hunting and keep going, and I’m confident that my teammates will get the ball in somehow,” Paradoski said. “I just tried to get to the ball and get a touch off. I was thinking, ‘Oh gosh, please don’t screw this up,’ but it ended up good. I was pretty happy about that.”
Baliatico added another point for the Phoenix 11 minutes later when she scored off her own rebound. Baliatico’s initial shot toward the bottom left corner was blocked, but the ball bounced back to her feet and she deposited her shot into the bottom left corner. She said the open net actually had her a little nervous when the ball left her feet.
“I was so scared it was going to go out,” Baliatico said. “But I’m glad I followed up my own shot.”
Elon was able to defend its 2-0 lead well throughout the second half, but Neal feels that the team needs to create more opportunities once they get an early lead.
“We had a couple of scary moments, and I'm not happy about getting outshot 5-1 in the second half,” Neal said. “That's something we've got to solve, because in the CAA, if you're up 2-0 early on a team, you've got to score a third and finish them off. I'm happy with the shutout, and I’m happy with the focus late in the game — everyone was alert and ready to see out a shutout.”
The win improves Elon to 4-4-1, and the Phoenix’s next match is at 7 p.m. next Friday, Sept. 23 against CAA rival Towson University.