The Elon University men’s soccer team fell to the No. 2 Wake Forest University Demon Deacons by a score of 2-0 on Tuesday night at Rudd Field. After a long 90 minutes, the Phoenix’s strength and resilience was not enough to avoid its first home loss of the season.
“They’re a talented, skillful, deep, athletic, well-coached group,” said head coach Marc Reeves. “I thought we did a decent job.”
Elon nearly got off to a dream start in the eighth minute, when senior striker Elijah Agu’s chip shot from 30-yards nearly found the back of the net. When the Wake Forest keeper raced out of his penalty area to boot away a loose ball, Agu found himself on the end of a rushed clearance and nearly scored a remarkable goal that would have put his side ahead and swung momentum in its favor.
Ranked No. 2 in the country coming into the match, the Demon Deacons dominated possession for most of the first half, and opened the scoring in the 26th minute through the feet of senior midfielder Luis Argudo. After a Wake Forest pass in the Elon penalty area caught the arm of a Phoenix defender, the visitors were given a penalty kick and Argudo delivered calmly from the spot to put his side up 1-0 and register his eighth goal on the season.
In the final 15 minutes, with the score still 1-0 to the visitors, the Phoenix began pushing men forward in search of a late equalizer. With six minutes remaining, Elon’s sophomore defender Luke Matthews launched a volley towards the Wake Forest goal from just outside the six-yard box, but was unable to keep his shot down as the ball soared over the goal.
Just four minutes later, the Phoenix saw another chance to level the score when sophomore striker Tuki Tayali’s effort from eight yards out rolled inches wide of the post.
“I was guilty of missing a good chance,” Tayali said. “I was aiming for the bottom corner, it bounced weirdly and it went wide, but that happens — next time it will go in.”
Seconds after Tayali’s missed opportunity, and with less than two minutes remaining, Elon lost possession in the final third of its opponents and was unable to recover its shape before Wake Forest’s redshirt junior forward Hank Gauger beat the Elon defense and finished a quick breakaway, effectively doubling his side’s advantage and securing the three points.
After the match, coach Reeves was in high praise of his squad’s performance, and paid respects to the strength of the opposition.
“We played the number two team in the nation,” Reeves said. “The second [goal] went in with a minute or two remaining — when we were trying to push and equalize — and I still give us credit for going at them in that way . . . It was a fairly tight game, they are a good side and we didn’t look out of place.”
The Phoenix came into Tuesday having won just one out of its last nine matches, while the Demon Deacons took the pitch riding an impressive 10-game win streak; Elon was unable to break its slump while the visitors were able to use that momentum to bring its win streak to 11.
This loss sees the Phoenix’s record drop to 4-4-6 overall, while No. 2 Wake Forest improves to 14-1-0 to keep the pressure on No. 1 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill with the regular season drawing to a close.
Elon will host Drexel University on Saturday, October 21 at 7 p.m. at Rudd Field in its final home match of the season.