DURHAM, N.C. – A first-half goal from Elijah Agu as well as staunch play on the defensive side of the ball propelled the Elon University men’s soccer team to a 1-0 victory over UCF in the Phoenix’s finale at the John Rennie/Nike Invitational on Sunday afternoon, Aug. 27, at Koskinen Stadium.
Elon (1-0-1) went unbeaten for the tournament with first-year head coach Marc Reeves earning his first victory with the Phoenix. The Knights fell to 0-2 on the young season in their first-ever meeting on the soccer pitch against the maroon and gold. Elon finished second at the tournament behind host Duke with the Blue Devils winning both its matches over the weekend.
At the conclusion of the tournament, Jonathan Coleby, Luke Matthews and Matthew Jegier all received a spot on the All-Tournament team.
During the first 25 minutes of the match, UCF was the more aggressive team as the Phoenix was peppered with five shots and the Knights repeatedly attacking its offensive third. Elon was able to withstand the attack including a shot by UCF’s Gorka Aperribay that was saved by Jegier in the 12th minute.
Elon got on the board in the 27th minute thanks to the tandem of Agu and Jaiden Fortune. Fortune fed a cutting Agu from the left side on a give-and-go with Agu making a nice move around a defender and the keeper before finding the top back left corner of the net for his first goal of the season.
The Knights had a few more closes chances prior to the end of the first period, but Elon’s defense held off the attack. The maroon and gold went into the half trailing in the shot battle, 8-2, but had the lone corner of the opening stanza. UCF also had two shots on goal, but both were corralled by Jegier.
UCF nearly found the equalizer just six minutes into the second half. The Knights had the Phoenix scrambling around the six-yard area before the ball found the foot of Ricardo Oliveros staring at a potential open goal. The shot however was too hard and went over the goal to return possession to Elon.
The Phoenix escaped disaster in the 80th minute as the Knights’ Cal Jennings got a great look at the goal inside the box. Jegier again was there to make the key stop to keep the shutout intact. That would be the UCF’s last good chance of the match as Elon closed out the shutout win over the final 10 minutes.
Elon ended up with the victory despite being outshot 13-3 by the UCF, which included at slight 3-2 advantage in shots on target. The Phoenix did blank the Knights in corners, 2-0, while Jegier made three saves between the posts for career shutout No. 18 – one shy for tying for third on the program’s all-time career list.
Quote of the Match
“This group has to improve in many areas,” said Reeves. “Obviously not conceding a goal and getting a tie and a win against two strong opponents is a solid start. I thought both games highlighted some factors which make college teams successful and our group can learn a lot. We will look to have a good week of training in preparation for our home opener and expect this group to compete on a daily basis to improve.”
Elon back on the pitch for its home-opener on Saturday, Sept. 2, facing Presbyterian at Rudd Field. That game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff.