ELON, N.C. – For the third straight year, the Elon University men’s soccer team begins its season at the John Rennie/Nike Invitational in Durham, N.C. The Phoenix opens the 2015 campaign versus DePaul on Friday, Aug. 28, at 5 p.m. before closing out the tournament on Sunday, Aug. 30, against Saint Mary’s at noon. Both matches will be played at Duke’s Koskinen Stadium.
Follow the Phoenix
Fans can follow the Phoenix this weekend and throughout the season with live updates on elonphoenix.com. Live stats for every men’s soccer match will be available on the team’s schedule and home pages on the Elon athletic website. Duke will also stream live video of both matches via a paid subscription. In-game updates will also be provided on Twitter at @elonscores or the program’s handle @elonmenssoccer.
Elon will be facing both DePaul and Saint Mary’s for the first-time ever on the soccer pitch. The Phoenix has posted a 2-1-1 mark over the past two seasons at the John Rennie/Nike Invitational.
The maroon and gold welcomes back 17 letterwinners and seven starters from a team that posted a 9-6-4 mark in 2014. Second-year head coach Chris Little also guided the Phoenix to a 4-2-2 ledger in the program’s inaugural year in the Colonial Athletic Association, just a game shy of tying for a share of the regular-season conference title.
Senior midfielder Miguel Salazar is back after earning first team All-CAA honors last season. The Guanajuato, Mexico, native posted career-highs offensively last year with three goals and seven total points and had a pair of game winners. Fellow senior James Brace is also back after leading the team in goals with six and receiving second team All-CAA honors in 2014.
The Phoenix defense was one of the best in the CAA last season as the unit posted a league-best nine shutouts and ranked among the league leaders in many other defensive categories. Senior defender Nathan Diehl is one of three starters returning on the back line and was a second-team All-CAA selection last year while tying the team-lead in assists.
The Blue Demons, who are a member of the Big East Conference, posted a 4-10-4 overall ledger in 2014 including a 1-6-2 mark in league play. DePaul was selected to finish 10th overall in the 2015 Big East Preseason poll, but won both of its exhibitions last week with victories against Western Illinois and Green Bay.
Craig Blazer begins his 14th year of leading the DePaul men’s soccer program and returns 17 players and eight starters back to the fold. The Blue Demons scored 17 goals overall last year with leading point scorers Simon Megally (team-high 11 points) and Jalen Harvey (team-best five goals) returning.
Scouting Saint Mary’s
Coming off a 12-5-2 record in 2014 and 5-2 mark in West Coast Conference play, the Gaels were tabbed to finish second in the 2015 WCC Preseason poll. Head coach Adam Cooper, who is in his 10th season with the Gaels, welcomes back 15 letterwinners and eight starters from last year’s team.
Junior defenders Alex Braman and Rafael Sanchez received first team All-WCC honors last season for Saint Mary’s and were selected on the league’s 2015 Preseason Team. Junior striker Carlo Eikani is the Gaels’ returning goal scorer with four.
After the John Reinnie/Nike Invitational, Elon will travel to its second early-season tournament of 2015 in Wilmington, N.C., for the UNCW Courtyard Wilmington/Wrightsville Beach Classic on Sept. 4-6. The Phoenix will face Campbell and North Florida in the field.