The Elon University women’s soccer team kicked off Colonial Athletic Conference (CAA) play Thursday night at Rudd Field against the University of North Carolina at Wilmington (UNCW). After 90 minutes of regulation and two 10-minute overtime periods, each side went home with a hard-fought point on what was Elon’s annual Latin Night.
The goal that secured a point and helped the Phoenix escape a home defeat came in the 58th minute, just four minutes after the hosts conceded on a close-range shot that was placed to the left of Elon’s senior goalkeeper Hanna Macaulay. The Seahawks’ lead was quickly erased when Elon’s freshman forward Carson Jones found herself in the right place at the right time, poking home her third career goal and leveling the score at one. After the match, Jones was quick to credit her team for setting up her equalizer, and reflected on her experience so far at Elon.
“Without a team effort it wouldn’t have happened,” Jones said. “As a freshman, the beginning was definitely really really stressful . . . I didn’t want to mess up — once you really get into the game it’s just fun, you kind of lose yourself [in the game.]"
The assist for Jones’ goal was credited to Meredith Christopher, who saw her own shot blocked by UNCW’s keeper before Jones pounced on the loose ball and hit the back of the net. This marked Christopher’s sixth assist of the season. As a freshman, she leads the team in both goals (4) and assists (6). Following the game, Christopher acknowledged her teammates for helping bolster her stat box this season and reflected on the short time she has spent as a Phoenix.
“This is a dream come true,” Christopher said. “I couldn’t do it without an amazing team — people to give me the ball, trust me to be on the field, and trust me to be in the final third.”
Head coach Chris Neal praised his squad’s tenacity and explained that there are still areas of play that need improvement as the season matures.
“We learned a lot about ourselves tonight — we’re a tough, resilient group,” Neal said. “To go down a goal in the second half against a team that was putting us under that amount of pressure, stick to the plan, and get the equalizer, I was really really impressed with our group . . . We’re very dynamic up top — we’ve got pace and skill but we fell into the trap tonight of giving the ball away too easily. If our forwards secure the ball and connect the first two passes, it’s game on, but tonight we just were not connecting one or two passes in transition.”
This hard-fought draw moves Elon’s record to 7-2-2, and starts its CAA record at 0-0-1. The Phoenix will return to action on Sunday at 1 p.m. when Coach Neal’s women take on CAA rivals James Madison University at Rudd Field.