The Elon University men’s soccer team found out that it had clinched a spot in the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) conference tournament Saturday night despite losing its third straight match, all on its home pitch at Rudd Field.
The Phoenix lost home matches against the University of Delaware, Duke University and Hofstra University in an eight-day span, a spiral that would shake most teams confidence. But for head coach Chris Little, the level of play Elon has had does not match what the results have been.
“If we keep playing like that [in the three losses] we’re going to start beating teams,” Little said. “In a normal year, you think you’d win all three [matches]. In a bad year you’d maybe lose one [of the three matches]. We just can’t seem to catch a break.”
Sophomore midfielder Amir Berkane shares a similar opinion as that of his head coach, saying that, “We’ve got to keep trying hard, working hard, and I guess eventually, one day, we’ll have that chance when everything just falls in the back of the net for us. It’s just a matter of time.”
The Phoenix has seen that the road through the CAA is not easy and is expecting the competition to get tougher in its following matches. There’s even a possibility Elon will have a rematch against Hofstra if the Phoenix can beat the College of William & Mary in its 7 p.m. quarterfinal match Saturday.
And while the losing stretch can be discouraging for a team, Berkane still carries all the faith in his team that he can, even as he sees a few ways the team can improve heading into the tournament.
“We just need to have a bit more grit as a team and just sort of try to see out the wins and stick together a bit more — I guess right the wrongs in a way,” Berkane said. “We’ve been brilliant all season and it’s a credit to the lads because we’ve stuck together and grinded out results.”
But unlike last year, where Elon received an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament without winning the conference tournament, the Phoenix knows its only shot at an NCAA trip is through the CAA. But Little thinks there’s a little luck coming Elon’s way.
“I honestly believe, over the course of a year, things even themselves out,” Little said. “Sometimes, you’ll steal a game you shouldn’t have won, and then you’ll lose one you should have. It balances out.
“For me, it’s about being positive, concentrating on moving forward, and then we’ll get the little intangibles — some breaks and bits of luck. It’ll start coming our way. For us, as a team, we need to keep concentrating on doing the right things.”