After the Elon University women’s soccer team scored early, their offense screeched to a grinding halt — which generated just one shot in the second half. The Phoenix also gave up a late goal to Drexel University, allowing the Dragons to tie the match. Despite several quality looks from Drexel, neither team could find the back of the net in the final minutes — ultimately forcing a 1-1 draw at Rudd Field Oct. 8.
Elon head coach Neil Payne said he was pleased with his team’s efforts and felt like his team did enough to win and deserved to win, especially on Senior Day. The Phoenix honored five seniors with pre-game festivities. Payne said the game might have gone differently if Drexel had not received a penalty kick, which the Dragons turned into a goal.
Elon senior defender Katie Lowe said that she thinks the Phoenix became nervous once they took the lead. She said because Elon has not won a lot of games this year, she thinks they attempted a safer, more conservative style of play in the second half. Lowe said this ultimately ended up backfiring for the Phoenix.
“We tend to sit off a little bit, and we let them come at us a little bit more than I think we should have,” Lowe said.
While Elon’s play seemingly worsened as the afternoon went on, the Phoenix began the match with what appeared to be the same level of drive and competitiveness they had when they outshot the Blue Hens 13-0 in the second half of its 1-0 loss to the University of Delaware on Oct. 5.
The Dragons wasted no time getting to work during the match as their first shot on goal came in the first minute. Drexel redshirt senior midfielder Gabrielle Perrotto sent a shot up top, but Elon senior goalkeeper McKenna Dalfonso was able to save the ball — recording what would be her first of six saves during the match.
The Phoenix registered its first shot of the day in the seventh minute when sophomore midfielder Rachel Buckle’s shot went out left. It would not be long until Elon would get another opportunity to give them an early cushion.
As Lowe crossed the ball from the right sideline, sophomore forward Ashlee Brehio met the pass as she leaped toward the goal. Brehio fired a shot into the upper right corner in midair, giving the Phoenix the lead in the 14th minute.
Lowe said she thought Elon started the game a lot better than they have in most of their other matches. She also said the early scoring punch might have been because the team talked about their energy before the match.
“Our whole goal was to start off strong in the first 20 minutes and give it to them,” Lowe said. “I think we did that.”
Drexel sophomore forward Casey Touey and senior midfielder Annalena O’Reilly both recorded their first shots on goal in the 13th and 14th minutes, respectively. Dalfonso thwarted both attempts by the Dragons, adding two more saves to her running total.
Elon pushed the pace again as redshirt junior forward Isabelle Paradoski had a good look from well outside the box that went toward the top left of the goal, but headed left of the goalpost out of bounds.
After a personnel issue with the referee crew caused a stoppage in the 19th minute, the match resumed after both squads received some unexpected rest.
The Phoenix only managed to record two more shots throughout the rest of the opening stanza: one from junior midfielder Kennedy Jones and the other from junior forward Lydia Totten. Totten’s shot was corralled by Drexel graduate student goalkeeper Joella Chase who picked up her first save of the day.
The Dragons also were unable to generate any more shots on goal during the remainder of the first period despite several solid looks from Touey, O’Reilly and senior forward Delaney Lappin.
Coming out of the break, both offenses struggled to generate anything. Neither team had a shot on goal until the 54th minute, when Drexel’s Touey sent the ball to the bottom right and Dalfonso notched her fourth save.
Elon had their first and only shot attempt of the second period in the 57th minute when freshman forward Lauren McCauley launched an attempt from the top of the offensive third that went wide of the left goalpost. After McCauley’s shot, the Phoenix offense became stagnant.
Elon lacked a sense of urgency as their offense was not playing with the same aggression they had at the start of the game. Despite Elon letting their foot off the gas, Drexel also seemed to lack that same sense of urgency even though they trailed. While Lappin took a shot in the 60th minute that went off the woodwork, the Dragons struggled to generate good looks.
After Lappin’s shot, Elon’s Jones went down hard as she appeared to get injured during a helter-skelter scrum for the ball. While she could walk off the field on her own weight, it was unclear if Jones – a Coastal Athletic Association preseason all-conference midfielder — would be able to take the pitch for the rest of the match.
While Jones did make her return in the 66th minute, it wasn’t until Lowe was called for a foul in the 68th minute that the match started to spiral for the Phoenix. Drexel graduate student defender Lily Dunbar fired a penalty kick from outside the box and sent it right past Elon’s four-man-wide wall to sophomore forward Elise Duffy, who put the ball into the top left corner to tie the game at one apiece in the 69th minute.
Duffy had three more shot opportunities in the 72nd, 81st and 85th minute. Two of the shots were saved by Dalfonso to cap off her total of six saves in the match.
On multiple occasions, it looked like Elon might have a chance to push the ball downfield and make something out of nothing during the last few minutes of play, but the Dragon’s defense was able to neutralize the opportunities and walk away with the tie.
Payne said Drexel’s defensive set up in the second period meant the Phoenix needed to have more moments of good-quality offense.
“The nature of our sport is if you’re one goal down, then you send numbers forward, which creates more numbers in their attack,” Payne said.
Payne said Elon’s ability to apply pressure and handle the opposition’s attacks has been handled well — but there is room for improvement.
“We just need to see if we can have a bit more quality in those moments,” Payne said.
After the draw Oct. 8, Elon remained in second-to-last place in the CAA standings. To qualify for postseason play, the Phoenix would realistically need to win out and other CAA teams would likely need to lose a couple of games.
Lowe said while she and her teammates know the odds are not in their favor to punch their ticket as one of the six teams who get to compete for a CAA title, they still want to put up a fight.
“It's difficult,” Lowe said. “We have a very small chance, and we all know that. So going into these last four games, I think it's just having the mentality of ending on a good season ending with some wins and kind of showing our conference that we’re here to play.”
The Phoenix will look to a matchup with another CAA opponent in Hofstra University. The game is scheduled for 7 p.m. Oct. 12 at Hofstra Soccer Stadium.