As storm clouds loomed over Rudd Field on Aug. 20, Elon University’s men’s soccer team took to the pitch for its second of three exhibition matches this preseason. While the team’s opponent on the field was the University of North Carolina Greensboro Spartans, another prominent adversary emerged in the game’s opening minutes — Mother Nature.
During the eighth minute of the first half, the game was suspended due to lightning in the surrounding area. A heavy rainstorm ensued, drenching the playing surface and causing a near two hour delay in the action.
However, the hiatus did not seem to deter the Phoenix, as the home team took control of the match when play resumed en route to a 1-0 victory over the Spartans.
Making the play
Head coach Marc Reeves said he is appreciative of both teams’ staffs for making sure they completed the game in full and is happy with the way his team responded following the lengthy delay.
“It’s just part of dealing with what you can control and what you can’t control and the weather is certainly something you can’t control,” Reeves said. “Our group did a good job of resetting and coming back out and adjusting and going again.”
Senior forward Jack Edwards scored the game’s lone goal, coming in the 60th minute. Edwards, who has scored just one regular season goal for the Phoenix, was the hero in what was a tight contest throughout.
“We moved the ball really well out there. I was in space when it came to me and I was open, so I just went for it and it was a good goal,” Edwards said.
Reeves said having such a stout opponent in a preseason match could pay dividends for the team early in the season. UNCG won last season’s Southern Conference Tournament and qualified for the NCAA Tournament.
“They’re a good team to play in the preseason because of how well they move the ball, how well coached they are, how athletic they are,” Reeves said. “It’s a good preseason test for sure.”
Exhibition matches do not count towards regular season records and are intended to provide teams with a chance to evaluate their rosters and get back in competitive shape. The Phoenix used this game to explore its depth, with 26 of the Phoenix’s 30 players seeing action at some point.
“We value every moment, every minute,” Reeves said. “We showed we’ve got a lot of depth and a lot of spirit.”
Playing preseason matches allows players to get back in the rhythm of playing competitive soccer. Edwards said having three preseason matches is helping the team find its groove before it begins the regular season.
“Having three preseason games is really good for fitness and it gets us up to speed, especially being on this big field,” Edwards said.
Elon will conclude its preseason schedule on Monday, Aug. 23 against Division II opponent Carson-Newman before it kicks off its regular season on Friday, Aug. 27 against Merrimack in Durham, North Carolina.
Reeves said the final exhibition matchup will allow the team to continue building fitness for the fast approaching regular season.
“We’re trying to make sure we build up our game fitness again while keeping people healthy,” Reeves said. “We’ll reset, refresh and go again Monday.”