COLUMBIA, S.C. – The Chris Little era got off to a winning start as the Elon University men’s soccer team earned a 1-0 victory over South Carolina on Tuesday, August 19, at the Eugene Stone III Stadium.
In the preseason exhibition opener for the Phoenix, both teams played three 30-minute periods for the match. It was also the first game for as Elon’s head coach for Little, who took over the helm of the program in April after previously serving as an assistant from 2010-12.
South Carolina nearly had the first goal of the match in the opening minutes of the first period. The Gamecocks’ Mahamoudou Kaba nearly placed a shot in the back right corner of the net four minutes into the match off a free kick, but the ball sailed wide.
At the 11th minute mark, Elon responded with its first shot of the match by Miguel Salazar. Salazar fired a strike from nearly 15-20 yards right at the Gamecocks’ keeper, Marco Velez, but he was able to make the save.
The Phoenix was challenged again in the 21st minute as the Gamecocks pushed numbers up forward. South Carolina’s Jeffrey Torda took a bending shot from the left side at the top of the box, but senior goalkeeper Nathan Dean was able to corral it to keep the match scoreless.
Elon earned its first set piece of the match at the 29th minute of action on a corner kick. The Phoenix’s Samuel McBride and Nathan Diehl both had opportunities to put the ball in the back of the net, but both were turned away by Velez as the first period ended scoreless.
Two minutes into the second period, Elon scored the lone goal of the match off a James Brace penalty kick. The Phoenix’s Alex Kowalski drew a foul in the box versus a Gamecock defender leading to Brace pushing the ball past Velez to give Elon a 1-0 lead.
South Carolina became more aggressive at the opposite end earning four straight corner kicks over the next two minutes. The Phoenix defended the set pieces well and escaped the charge after Kaba’s header went wide at the 36th minute mark.
At the 40th minute mark, Torda fired another bending shot towards Dean, this time from the right side of the box, but the Liverpool, England, native made another stop by knocking the ball out of play. On the preceding corner kick, Kaba tried another header, but the ball again sailed high of the goal. Elon then made mass substitutions to replace all of its starters before the end of the second period.
In the final period of action, South Carolina had five more chances to score a goal, but was turned away each time. Freshman goalkeeper Matthew Jegier had three saves in the period, keeping the shutout intact for the maroon and gold.
South Carolina had a 12-7 overall advantage in shots and had four more attempts in corners (6-2). Salazar and Chad Craig led the Phoenix with two shot attempts, which had four shots on goal as a team.
Elon closes out its exhibition schedule on Saturday with a match at home versus NC State. That game is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff.