ELON, N.C. – The Elon women’s soccer team is set for a challenging weekend as the Phoenix hosts Triad rival UNCG on Friday, Aug. 26, at 7 p.m., followed by a road for a matchup against No. 8-ranked Clemson on Sunday, August 28, at 2 p.m.
FOLLOW THE PHOENIX
Updates on the Phoenix’s matches against the Spartans and the Tigers will be provided on Twitter at the handle @elonscores or the program’s handle, @ElonWSoccer. Sunday’s game will be available on the WatchESPN app and ACC Network Extra.
LAST TIME OUT
Elon opened the season with a 2-0 victory over Charleston Southern on Aug. 19 and a 2-1 loss to High Point on Aug. 21.Grace Bennett and Sydney Schilling provided the goals in Elon’s win against the Bucs, while Tori Baliatico scored the team’s lone goal in a loss to the Panthers.
The match against the Spartans renews an old Southern Conference rivalry between the two squads. It will be the 21st meeting all-time on Friday. Although UNCG leads the series, Elon is 1-1-2 in the last three matchups against the Spartans. The Phoenix earned a 1-1 draw after two extra time periods in last season’s matchup on Sept. 13, 2015 at UNCG Soccer Stadium. Elon’s last win against UNCG was on Oct. 26, 2011, a 1-0 victory over the Spartans.
Sunday’s match will only be the second meeting between the Phoenix and the Tigers. It will be the first time that Elon has faced Clemson as a ranked foe. In the last and only matchup against the Tigers, Clemson earned a 5-0 vin on Aug. 29, 2014 at Rudd Field.
NEAL MAKES HISTORY
Ninth-year head coach Chris Neal made history on Aug. 19th, becoming the winningest coach in program history with his 75th career victory at Elon. He surpassed Paul Webster (1995-2003) for the most wins in Elon women’s soccer program history.
The Phoenix squad has returned 20 players from the 2015 season, which posted a winning record of 9-8-2 and started the year with a Division I era program-best, 7-1-1 mark, in the first nine games. Elon infuses 10 newcomers into the fold, which includes nine total freshmen, three of which are international student-athletes, and a graduate transfer.
Out of the 20 returners, nine players made starts in 10 or more games in 2015. Three of the Phoenix’s top scorers from last season, juniors Susannah Anderson and Kendall Ballotti, sophomore forward and 2015 CAA All-Rookie team honoree Tori Baliatico, as well as assist leaders Sydney Schilling and Amanda Lasater, will look to assist in an improved and new-look offense. Four players who started most games on the back line will return in 2016, including Ballotti and Lasater, who are joined by seniors Kara DeGuisto and Sarah Henson. Taylor Mohr, who started in 16 matches and had five shutouts last season, returns at the goalkeeper position, and is joined by junior Hanna Macaulay, who made three starts and recorded two shutouts in 2015.
Sophomore Tori Baliatico earned Honorable Mention accolades by the conference in the 2016 Preseason All-CAA Team. The Scotch Plains, N.J. native finished tied for first on the team in points (9) and goals (4) last season and earned 2015 CAA All-Rookie Team honors. She has already scored one goal to begin this season.
SCOUTING THE OPPONENTS
The Spartans enter Friday with an undefeated 1-0-1 start after two matches. UNCG earned a season-opening 0-0 draw with High Point on Aug. 19 and followed it up with a 3-0 win against Tennessee Tech on Sunday. 2015 Southern Conference Freshman of the Year Caylin Prillaman scored twice to lead the Spartans to victory against the Golden Eagles and Dena Cisic added the third for UNCG.
After being ranked No. 14 in the NSCAA Preseason poll, Clemson has moved up to No. 8 in the polls after going 2-0 last weekend. The Tigers earned a season-opening 2-0 win over No. 12 Auburn and a 3-1 victory against Georgia. Five different players have scored Clemson’s first five goals this season. Freshman midfielder Julie Mackin was named the ACC’s Offensive Player of the Week after scoring a game-winning goal and tallying two assists. Senior defender Claire Wagner was named to the Top Drawer Soccer Team of the Week. The Tigers are also ranked No. 9 nationally by Top Drawer Soccer and Soccer America. Clemson faces No. 7 West Virginia on Friday before taking on the Phoenix on Sunday.
The Phoenix continues its four-match road swing next week. Elon faces Coastal Carolina on Thursday, Sept. 1, at 6 p.m. and then head to Western Carolina for a match on Sunday, Sept. 4, at 2 p.m.