The Elon University men’s soccer team is off to a hot start this season with no losses after six outings under new head coach Marc Reeves.
Now, they’re hoping to make another appearance in the NCAA tournament at the end of the season.
The Phoenix’s impressive run of form continued on the road in two key matchups against the University of North Carolina at Charlotte (UNCC) and Hofstra University. Reeve’s men fought hard to take home a point from both matches, each requirng two 10-minute overtime periods before the final whistle was blown.
In the match against UNCC, Elon trailed for 56 long minutes before freshman midfielder Ronnie Mleczkovicz leveled the score at one with an 88th minute equalizer, effectively forcing the contest into two extra time periods which the Phoenix was able to survive.
Later in the week, Elon traveled to face Hofstra, the defending regular season champion of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA). The Phoenix was able to open the scoring in the 26th minute, thanks to a brilliantly placed free kick by Mleczkovicz that beat the Hofstra wall and keeper with ease. But the glory was short-lived, and the Hofstra attack was able to net just eight minutes later and bring the score even at one. A scoreless second half and extra time saw each team walk off the field with a point.
One triad of Elon players has been responsible for a bulk of the team’s offensive success this season: Mleczkovicz, junior forward Jaiden Fortune and senior forward Elijah Agu. Each of these three in-form Phoenix footballers has tallied two goals and two assists in the first third of the season. This is a great sign for Elon, as its forwards are creating goals at will while freshman Mleczkovicz, who hails from Gothenburg, Sweden, has wasted no time getting acclimated to the style of life and soccer in the United States.
The Phoenix’s experienced defense has been nearly impenetrable through six games. It has conceded just two goals, and both were allowed on the road against formidable opponents. While Elon was also impressive defensively during the first half of last season, it lost its footing in the final stretch and ended on a disappointing 0-4-1 skid that eliminated all hope of winning the conference title. Coach Reeves will surely be looking to avoid a similar fate this season, and finish on a strong note despite a challenging succession of oppositions to end the campaign. The Phoenix will take on Wake Forest University (ranked #4 in the country and defending ACC tournament champion) before matching up against Davidson College (5-0-1 record) and finishing the season against the University of Delaware (defending CAA tournament champion).
The last time Elon started a season with zero losses through six matches, it proceeded to claim the CAA title and appear in the NCAA tournament. That was just two years ago, and coach Reeves’ goal to achieve similar status this season is off to a promising start. Aside from the remaining conference matches on Elon’s schedule, the team also has three contests against powerful Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) sides to look forward to. The Phoenix will go toe-to-toe with North Carolina State University, No. 23 Duke University and No. 4 Wake Forest University before the regular season draws to a close in late October. Each match will be a test of the squad’s strength and durability, while a trio of impressive results could boost Elon’s chances of securing a spot in the NCAA tournament for the second time in three seasons.
It is tough to ask for a better start, but coaches and fans alike will be hoping the team can carry on with the sense of confidence and swagger it has been bringing into each match. With eleven matches remaining in the regular season, the Phoenix is confident in its ability to extend this six-game unbeaten run and earn a spot in the highly-competitive NCAA tournament.