CONWAY, S.C. – One of the best seasons in Elon men’s soccer history came to an end Thursday as the 16th-ranked Phoenix fell to 13th-ranked Coastal Carolina, 3-0, in the opening round of the 2012 NCAA Tournament. The Chanticleers’ Pedro Ribeiro had a goal 41st minute and contributed another in the second half to extend Coastal Carolina’s season. The Phoenix (15-5-2) saw its year come to a close for the second consecutive year to the Chanticleers.
Coastal Carolina maintained possession of the ball throughout the opening stanza and held a 9-3 shot advantage over the Phoenix in the first period. The Chanticleers nearly scored in the 11th minute of the game on a Justin Portillo shot, but keeper Nathan Dean was able to knock the ball away. Coastal Carolina almost had the rebound follow, but the striker lost his footing before the ball was cleared.
Both teams battled on a wet and slick field after it rained for the majority of the day. Players had issues maintaining their footing throughout the match often causing misplays on the ball.
Near the 19th minute, the Chanticleers twice had close calls on a goal. Portillo fired a shot in the box that was again knocked away by Dean. Shawn McLaws almost had the follow seconds later, but Elon cleared the ball out of play.
The momentum started to turn towards the Phoenix’s favor in the middle of the first half and Elon almost scored the first goal of the contest on a Gabe Latigue bending shot from 18 yards out at the 29th minute. The shot hit the post however and both teams remained scoreless.
Coastal Carolina would be the first team to find the back of the net in the 41st minute on a score from Pedro Ribeiro. Ribeiro received a pass from inside the box from Taylor Lemmon and was able to knock in his fourth goal of the year from 20 yards.
The Phoenix almost had the equalizer minutes later on a Jordan Smith attempt from 18-20 yards at the 44th minute, but his shot also hit the far left post and Elon would go into the half trailing 1-0.
Ribeiro added to the Chanticleers lead in the second half, netting his second goal of the contest in the 58th minute. Ribeiro fired a shot from 25 yards out that just went over the reach of Dean to give Coastal Carolina a 2-0 advantage.
The Phoenix fell to a 3-0 deficit after Coastal Carolina added another score in the 70th minute on a Matt Risher goal. Portillo served the ball into the box on a corner where Risher headed in his third goal of the year.
Elon would attack the Chanticleers’ defense more aggressively in the latter part of the final period, but was unable to find the back of the net. The loss snapped the Phoenix’s season-high seven-match unbeaten streak and ended year with 15 wins, the most for the program since entering Division I play in 1999.
The maroon and gold had a season for the ages with numerous team and individual accolades throughout the year. The program had its highest ranking ever at No. 16 and would capture both the regular season and postseason Southern Conference title for the first time in school history. Powell was named the SoCon Coach of the Year with senior forward Chris Thoms earning his second league Player of the Year recognition.
Along with Thomas, five other seniors – Mark Berlin, Archie Karpeh, Gabe Latigue, Denzel Ogunyase and Smith – ended their career’s tonight for the Phoenix, but will go down as one of the more successful classes in the history of the program.