ELON, N.C. – The Elon University men’s soccer team will begin the 2016 campaign at the John Rennie/Nike Invitational for the fourth straight season. The Phoenix will take on UNC Asheville to open the new year on Friday, Aug. 26, at 5 p.m. before concluding the tournament on Sunday, Aug. 28, at 12 p.m. versus San Diego at Koskinen Stadium on the campus of Duke University.
Fans can follow the Phoenix throughout the tournament for updates this weekend on Twitter at the program’s handle @ElonMensSoccer. Other scores and updates will also be provided at the handle @elonscores. Both of Elon’s matches will be streamed live on WatchESPN/ESPN3 via the ACC Network Extra.
vs. UNC Asheville: The Phoenix and the Bulldogs are meeting for the 17th time in a series that dates back to 1978, but it is their first meeting in eight years. Elon holds a slight 8-7-1 advantage all-time over UNC Asheville with the maroon and gold prevailing with a 1-0 double-overtime victory in the last contest in 2008.
vs. San Diego: This is the first-ever meeting on the soccer pitch between the Phoenix and the Toreros. It is the third straight season that Elon will face a team at the John Rennie/Nike Invitational from the West Coast Conference. The maroon and gold has posted a 2-0 ledger against teams from the WCC the past two seasons with 1-0 victories over Loyola Marymount (2014) and Saint Mary’s (2015).
The Colonial Athletic Association announced its 2016 preseason coaches’ poll last week with the Phoenix earning 48 points for a third place predicted finish. Hofstra, who shared the CAA regular-season title with Phoenix last season, was tabbed as the league favorite with 64 points including eight first place votes. Delaware received 55 points for second place behind the Pride after falling to Hofstra in the CAA Tournament final last year.
In the previous 43 seasons, the Elon men’s soccer program has posted a 17-25-2 all-time record in its first match of the season. Last year, the Phoenix defeated DePaul 4-0 in its opening match to snap a nine-year, non-win streak in its season openers. The last time Elon won consecutive season openers came during the 2005 and 2006 campaigns.
Third-year head coach Chris Little returns 14 letterwinners and three starters from a squad that won 14 games in 2015, earned a share of the CAA regular season title and reached the NCAA Tournament for the fourth time in the last five seasons. Elon recorded its first-ever victory in the national tournament with a 3-0 victory over Winthrop in the first round. The feat came in front of 2,400 fans at the Phoenix’s home pitch at Rudd Field, the most highly attended match in the opening round of the NCAA Tournament.
Despite the loss of 10 graduating seniors, Elon returns a number of key cogs as well as an influx of talented newcomers. Junior captain Jonathan Coleby is one of the three returning starters and will lead the backline from one of the center back spots. Sophomore Nicholas O’Callaghan is also back after starting 15 of his 19 games as a rookie. Both players earned recognition on the 2016 Preseason All-CAA team last week.
Redshirt sophomore Matthew Jegier is back in goal after playing every minute between the posts in his first season as a starter. The Charlotte, N.C., native earned a spot on the CAA All-Rookie team after leading the league with nine shutouts and was also recognized on the preseason all-league team. Sophomore striker Jaiden Fortune is the Phoenix’s leading returning scorer with 16 points off his five goals and team-best six assists from his rookie campaign. He also was an CAA All-Rookie team selection and a member of the league’s preseason team.
About UNC Asheville
UNC Asheville begins 2016 after coming off a 6-11-1 ledger in 2015 and a 3-6-0 mark during Big South play. The Bulldogs return 18 letterwinners and were selected to finish seventh in the 2016 Big South Preseason poll. Head coach Matthew Mennell is in his second season at the helm of the UNC Asheville men’s soccer program.
Senior forward Zach Joens led Asheville in multiple categories a season ago with nine goals, 19 points, total shots (36) and shots on goal (23). The Asheville, N.C., native was tabbed to the 2015 Big South All-Conference Team.
Scouting San Diego
The Toreros, led by head coach Seamus McFadden in his 37th year at the program, are coming off a 10-5-3 campaign in 2015 with a 5-1-1 mark in WCC play. San Diego has 17 players returning to the pitch for the 2016 season and was selected to finish third in the WCC Preseason poll.
Senior midfielder Michael Turner was named to the preseason All-WCC team. Turner, a All-WCC second team selection in 2015, has been a key contributor for the Toreros the past three years racking up nine goals and tallying ten assists in 59 career matches (50 starts).
After the John Rennie Nike Invitational, Elon hosts its first tournament since 2010 with the Elon/High Point Classic beginning next Friday, Sept. 2. The Phoenix opens the tournament against St. Bonaventure on Friday, Sept. 2, at 7 p.m.