ELON, N.C. – Coming off its fourth trip to the NCAA Tournament in the past five seasons, the Elon University men’s soccer team gears up for another exciting slate with the release of its 2016 schedule by third-year head coach Chris Little on Wednesday, June 15.
The Phoenix is scheduled to compete in three exhibition friendlies and 17 regular season matches in this fall. Including exhibition contests, Elon will face five teams that reached the 2015 NCAA Tournament as well as a pair of contests against Atlantic Coast Conference and in-state foes NC State and Duke.
“We’re really excited about the schedule this year,” said Little. “I think we put together a very competitive schedule on the regional and national level that gives us the opportunity to compete for the NCAA Tournament. We’re delighted with the schedule we put together and look forward to getting started.”
Here is the breakdown of the 2016 Elon men’s soccer schedule:
For the first time in several years, the Phoenix has added an extra exhibition match before the start of the regular season. Elon will host Georgetown at Rudd Field on Aug. 13 for a match at 7 p.m. followed by a contest at Campbell four days later. The maroon and gold welcomes in-state rival Charlotte to its home pitch on Aug. 20 for a final tune-up prior the regular season. Both the Hoyas and the 49ers reached the NCAA Tournament a season ago and finished in the top-25 in the final National Soccer Coaches Association of America (NSCAA) poll.
Elon opens the season for the fourth straight year in Durham, N.C., for the John Rennie/Nike Invitational hosted by Duke University. The Phoenix is set to meet UNC Asheville on Friday, Aug. 26, at 5 p.m. to open the tournament and finish out the weekend against Pac-12 opponent San Diego State on Sunday, Aug 28, at 12 p.m.
The following weekend, Elon hosts its first regular season tournament since 2010 with the Elon/High Point Classic. The Phoenix welcomes St. Bonaventure to Rudd Field on Friday, Sept. 2, at 7 p.m. and caps the weekend versus Detroit Mercy on Sunday, Sept. 4.
The Phoenix ended the 2015 season with its highest final RPI ranking in school history at No. 23 due in part of its challenging non-conference schedule. This season, Elon has put together another challenging string of contests outside of Colonial Athletic Association play. Excluding opponents from its early-season tournaments, the Phoenix will face four teams in its non-conference slate that finished in the top-90 in the final RPI ratings including two in the top-35.
“It’s always been our philosophy to put together a very strong schedule,” added Little. “Our strength of schedule has been in the high 20s or 30s for the last several years. That’s very important because we want the challenge of being tested and playing the best teams that we can play. I think that’s the only way that our players get better and we get better overall as a team.”
Elon travels to NC State (Sept. 13) and Radford (Sept. 17) in the midst of a four-game road trip before heading to Triad rival High Point on Oct. 1. It will be the Phoenix’s first game versus the Wolfpack during the regular season since 2005, while the Highlanders earned an at-large bid to the NCAAs last season.
On Oct. 25, Elon hosts Duke for the first time since 2014 when the Phoenix earned its first-ever victory over the Blue Devils, 2-1. The Phoenix closes out its non-conference slate at Winthrop on Nov. 1 in a rematch of last year’s first round NCAA Tournament contest. Elon earned its first-ever victory in the national tournament with a 3-0 win over the Eagles in front of over 2,400 fans at Rudd Field, the most highly attended NCAA first-round match in the nation.
Elon enters its third season as a member of the CAA, which has established itself as one of the most competitive soccer conferences in the nation. Elon clinched a share of the CAA regular-season championship in 2015 and was one of two league teams to make the NCAA Tournament along with Hofstra.
“We expect nothing less than a highly competitive slate of games again in the CAA,” said Little. “Every game is a challenge, there’s a lot of parity in the CAA, which makes every game so important. We begin league play earlier than usual this year, so it’s important to be prepared for another competitive year in the conference.”
The Phoenix will open conference play at College of Charleston on Sept. 10. Elon has won two straight against the Cougars with both victories coming via golden goals in overtime, including last year’s 1-0 thriller in double overtime at Rudd Field. After a pair of non-conference road contests, the maroon and gold closes out a four-game road swing with its first trip to James Madison as a CAA opponent.
Following its matchup at JMU, the Phoenix hosts UNCW on Sept. 28 for its first-ever meeting as conference foes at Rudd Field. It will be the Seahawks first trip to Elon since the 2013 season where the maroon and gold prevailed with a 3-1 victory. Elon then heads to Northeastern on Oct. 8 for the first time.
Elon hosts William & Mary on Oct. 12 before traveling to Philadelphia for a matchup at Drexel on Oct. 15, the team’s final CAA road contest. Elon has defeated the Dragons in each of the past two seasons.
The Phoenix wraps up its league slate at home with a pair of highly anticipated contests against Delaware (Oct. 22) and defending CAA Tournament champion Hofstra on Oct. 29. Both programs advanced to the league tournament championship game last season with Elon falling to the Blue Hens in the semifinals via penalty kicks. Hofstra, the defending CAA Tournament champion, shared the CAA regular-season title with the Phoenix, but earned the No. 1 seed of the tournament due to its head-to-head 1-0 victory over Elon at Hempstead, N.Y.
The CAA Men’s Soccer Championships opens on Nov. 5 with the quarterfinals at campus sites. The league’s semifinal round is slated for Nov. 10 with the championship game scheduled on Nov. 13 at the site of the league’s regular season champion.