The No. 20 Elon University men’s soccer team got its Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) campaign kicked off with a 3-1 win on Friday night, beating the Drexel University Dragons in front of an overflow crowd that lined the fences at Rudd Field. Fresh off of 1-0 road win at No. 7 Wake Forest University, Elon improved to 7-0-0, while the Dragons dropped to 1-6-0.

The Phoenix kept up the tempo early, putting pressure on the Dragons and controlling the ball in Drexel’s defending half, threatening to score a number of times in with the game’s first few kicks.

Elon head coach Chris Little urged his team to increase the pace of play in the match’s opening minutes, adding that his Phoenix is a “high-tempo, dynamic team with attacking players that are very quick, so we want to get them the ball as much as possible”. 

A promising cross in the eighth minute was blocked by the visiting keeper, only to be followed by a strong shot by senior Eduardo Alvarez, which missed above the goal. The Phoenix continued to push the ball on net, as a blast from outside the box by Cooper Vandermaas-Peeler sailed wide right only two minutes later.

Elon came inches away from scoring in the 17th minute, as a header from senior Cauê Da Silva bounced off of the crossbar. As the half went on, the Phoenix barely gave Drexel a chance to touch the ball. The home side finally cashed in as Vandermaas-Peeler netted his third of the season off of an assist from true freshman Nicholas O’Callaghan, giving Elon the early lead.

It wasn’t long before the Phoenix made a mark again, as O’Callaghan scored his first goal of his career, tapping a loose ball in the box past a diving goalkeeper, putting his team up 2-0 in the 24th minute. 

Regarding Little’s choice to start him, O’Callaghan said “it feels good to know that coach wants to put me in for a big game like this”.

The Elon attack didn’t let up as the half drew to a close. The Phoenix put up 14 shots in the first half, while Drexel only managed two.

The Dragons surged into the second half with a renewed energy, but Elon’s strong play continued. There was little action until the 64th minute, when junior Taylor Adler scored only six minutes after stepping into the game as a substitute. Adler’s curling shot from the top of the box was the first goal of his collegiate career, giving Elon the 3-0 lead.

After the game, Adler noted that the team has appreciated the support from fans and hopes that it continues as the season goes on.

The Dragons finally struck back in the 73rd minute, when an errant Elon pass was intercepted near the goal. Drexel sophomore Tristan Thompson passed the ball forward to his brother, junior Aaron Thompson, who brought his team to within two.

The victory against Drexel was the last home game for the Phoenix in the month of September. It heads on the road for the next three games, where it will square off against the University of South Carolina before returning to CAA play against University of Delaware and College of William & Mary.

Little said that he and the team have been looking at “one game at a time”, adding that it is the best approach for a league as “tight and competitive as the CAA”.