CARY, N.C. – Chris Thomas scored in the 35th minute to give the Elon men’s soccer team a 1-0 win over Georgia Southern in the semifinals of the Southern Conference Men’s Soccer Championship on Thursday night, Nov. 8, at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary N.C.
The top-seeded Phoenix (14-4-2) advances to the championship game for the second consecutive season and will face the winner between Appalachian State and Wofford. The league championship will be played on Saturday, Nov. 10, at 7 p.m.
Thomas scored on a rebound off a Matt Wescoe shot to give the senior forward his 23rd goal of the year. Wescoe fired a shot from 8-10 yards in the box after receiving a pass from Jordan Smith, but was turned away by keeper Neal Bates. Bates failed to corral the ball cleanly as it trickled away to Thomas for the easy score.
The Phoenix almost gave up a goal early in the opening stanza at the 11-minute mark as the Eagles’ Joe Hughes was able to maneuver past keeper Nathan Dean for an apparent empty netter. Elon defensemen Mark Berlin was able to hustle over to kick the ball out of play just before the ball crossed the goal line.
Elon held on for the remainder of the half and went into the break with a 1-0 advantage. The Phoenix held a 7-6 shot advantage over the Eagles, but had a 7-2 deficit in corners
The Phoenix came out the second period aggressive with six shots in the opening 20 minutes compared to one for GSU. Thomas had another opportunity to give Elon a 2-0 lead in the 51st minute, but was turned away by Bates. Jordan Smith nearly had the follow just seconds later, but Bates recovered in time to corral the ball.
Georgia Southern almost had the equalizing goal in the 65th minute as Witt Carlise’s attempt hit the right post. That would be the Eagles best chance for the remainder of the match as other attacks went high or blocked by the Phoenix defense.
Carlise and David Vargas Masis led GSU with three shots each. Bates had five saves in all 90 minutes between the posts.
Dean had his seventh shutout of the season and sits alone in third place on the all-time list for a single-season. The Liverpool, England, native had two saves and played every minute between the posts.
Elon held a 14-11 advantage on shots in the match and was just edged out 8-6 on corners. The Phoenix extends its unbeaten streak to six.