DURHAM, N.C. – The Elon University men’s soccer team suffered a setback in its season opener in a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Stetson on Friday evening, August 29, in the opening match of the John Rennie/Nike Classic, hosted by Duke, at Koskinen Statdium.
The Hatters (1-0) spoiled the regular-season coaching debut of Phoenix first-year coach Chris Little. Elon (0-1) battled back from an 1-0 first half deficit to tie the match in the 59th minute on Miguel Salazar’s first career score, but allowed two late goals to fall to Stetson.
Elon jumped out of the game very aggressive with Eduardo Alavarez firing a shot towards the goal in only the third minute of action. Stetson’s keeper, Paul Ladwig, was able to corral the ball for the Hatters for the save.
The Phoenix continued to dominate the first 20 minutes of play. Between the fifth and seventh minute, Elon’s Jason Waterman had a pair of shots blocked by the Hatter defense, with the last one setting up a corner opportunity. A header try off the set piece by Nathan Diehl went high and the ball went back to the Hatters.
Stetson scored the first goal of the match in the 21st minute. A misplayed ball by an Elon defender led to a one-on-one breakaway opportunity for Hatter forward Marco Hjorth versus goalkeeper Nathan Dean. Hjorth pushed the ball past Dean to net the first score of the match and put the Phoenix in a 1-0 hole.
Elon’s best chances for a goal in the opening period may have come in the 27th minute. After earning a corner kick, a shot by Salazar was knocked out of play by Ladwig resulting in another corner for Elon. On the ensuing play, the ball found the foot of Salazar again, but he Ladwig was there for the save once more.
Despite its deficit from the opening stanza, Elon dominated in all aspects of the first 45 minutes of action. The maroon and gold held a 12-2 advantage in shots, a 5-1 mark over Stetson in corners and had five shots on goal compared to two for the Hatters.
Elon finally netted the equalizer in the 59th minute of play when Salazar dribbled from the right side at the top of the box and fired a strike from 18 yards away for his first career goal. The junior from Guanajuato, Mexico, tied the match at 1-1 and brought life back to the Phoenix.
Stetson responded nearly 10 minutes later as Jeppe Moe fired a bending shot from 30 yards away that floated to the back right corner of the net to put the Hatters back up 2-1. Stetson then added an insurance score in the 73rd minute when Jared Huber finished off a long ball to put it past Dean for a 3-1 lead.
The Phoenix continued to fight and closed the gap to one as Diehl headed in a goal in the 81st minute off a free kick, bringing the score to 3-2. Elon continued to push numbers up forward to net the equalizer, but Stetson was able to hang on for the win.
Elon finished the match with an 18-10 shot advantage over the Hatters and dominated in corners 10-2. Ladwig had seven saves in goal for Stetson while Dean had four for Elon.
The Phoenix concludes the tournament on Sunday, Aug. 31, with a match versus Loyola Marymount at noon.