Despite losing to the College of Charleston 2-1 on Saturday night in the first round of the Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) tournament, the Elon University men’s soccer team still has a slim chance at extending its season.
After going 7-4-6 this year, the Phoenix is eligible for an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament. If not picked next Monday, Elon’s season is over.
In the CAA quarterfinals game this weekend, the game-winner came in the 66th minute, when Elon conceded a penalty and Charleston senior striker Leland Archer delivered calmly from the spot. The Cougars were then able to keep Elon from scoring over the final 24 minutes, securing the victory and punching a ticket to the semifinals.
The Phoenix took the lead in the 23rd minute, when senior forward Elijah Agu scored off of a beautiful strike from outside the 18-yard box just seconds after coming on as a substitute. But the glory was short-lived, as Charleston responded with a goal just six minutes later when senior forward Leland Archer placed a header, from a set piece delivery, past the Elon keeper.
The season started extremely well for Elon - it got off to a 3-0-1 start and was not defeated until it met conference rival and No. 14 ranked University of North Carolina at Wilmington in its ninth match of the season. After playing to a record of 3-0-5, the Phoenix went on a 0-3-1 skid before bouncing back and winning four of its final five contests.
Elon’s victory in its season finale against Delaware on Oct. 28 saw it qualify for the CAA tournament for the fourth consecutive season. But, head coach Marc Reeves’ squad was unable to advance past the first round in his inagural season at the helm of the program.
Senior midfielder Elijah Agu finished the CAA season with a team-high four goals despite missing multiple games due to an injury and a violation of team rules off the field. Agu also led his team with four assists. Freshman midfielder Ronni Mleczkovicz had an impressive premiere season at Elon, providing three goals and three assists from the midfield. With Agu graduating in the spring, it will be important for younger players such as Mleczkovicz to step up and fill the gap that will inevitably be left by Agu’s absence.
Also graduating this year is senior defender Jonathan Coleby, who has been invaluable to Elon’s defense throughout his entire collegiate career. Coleby started in all 19 games as a freshman, and has remained healthy and in-form since. Coleby and Agu are the only two seniors on the roster, so coach Reeves will be excited to have the bulk of his team back for next season.
The Phoenix have scored eighteen goals while conceding just eleven, effectively earning a goal difference of +7. Seven different players scored for Elon, suggesting that nearly the entire team can be a threat in front of the goal. Redshirt-junior goalkeeper Matthew Jegier, with the help of his defense, came up with an impressive 10 clean sheets this season after facing 189 shots and only conceding 11 goals.
As Reeves prepares for his second season, he will have a strong foundation to build upon. Though the Phoenix was knocked out in the first round of the CAA tournament, the coaching staff and players alike will be eager to return to action next season.