ELON, N.C. – Elon University women’s lacrosse looks to tie its best start in program history on Sunday, Feb. 19, when it hosts preseason Big South favorite High Point at 1 p.m. at Rudd Field. In its fourth season of competition, Elon is 3-0 to open the 2017 campaign and has already posted two victories over Big South opponents.
LAST TIME OUT
Elon’s defense played a large role in helping the Phoenix to a 13-5 victory over Winthrop on Wednesday, Feb. 15. Elon only allowed one goal in the first 42 minutes of the game while building an insurmountable 11-1 advantage on the reigning Big South champion Eagles. Stephanie Asher and Abby Godfrey each scored three times while Asher also picked up three draw controls. In the cage, Rachel Ramirez allowed just two goals in 45 minutes of action while making two saves before giving way to Tori Cipollone, who snagged a career-high three ground balls on the evening.
The Phoenix and Panthers have met in each of Elon’s first three seasons of competition. To date, Elon holds a 2-1 lead over High Point with wins each of the last two meetings. Last season, the Phoenix took down the Panthers 12-8 in High Point behind three goals apiece from Sloane Kessler and Shelby Scanlin.
SCOUTING THE PANTHERS
High Point opened its season Friday night with a 16-6 loss to top-ranked North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Senior Samantha Brown and junior Erica Perrotta led the team with two goals apiece. Last season, the Panthers posted a 13-6 record and reached the Big South Tournament finals before falling 10-7 to Winthrop. High Point averaged 13.5 goals per game and only allowed an average of 8.1 per outing.
LOOKING FOR SOME HISTORY
For the second season in a row, Elon is 3-0 to open a campaign and looking to make it 4-0, which would match Elon’s 2016 start for the best in program history. A season ago, the Phoenix defeated San Diego State, Longwood and Coastal Carolina in its first three games before going on the road to beat No. 10 Duke in Durham to move to 4-0. Before that, Elon opened the 2015 season 2-2 and was 1-3 in 2014, the program’s first season of competition.
DOMINATING THE BIG SOUTH
In Elon’s first season of competition, it went 3-3 against Big South foes. Since, the Phoenix has posted a perfect 9-0 record against the conference, including wins over Campbell and Winthrop already this year, for a 12-3 overall mark. High Point marks Elon’s final Big South opponent of the season. The Phoenix will play former Big South member Coastal Carolina on March 24. CCU moved to the Atlantic Sun after the 2015-16 academic year.
NATIONALLY RANKED WINS
With the Feb. 11 win over No. 13/14 Virginia, Elon has now beat a nationally-ranked team in each of the last two seasons. In 2016, the Phoenix went on the road to No. 10 Duke and won 7-6 in Durham, N.C. Beating Virginia now gives Elon an all-time record of 2-6 against ACC opponents. Overall against ranked teams, Elon is 2-8 in 10 games to date.
TAKING THE HARDWARE
With her team-leading five goals and game-high four draw controls in the season opener against Campbell, Stephanie Asher was named CAA Player of the Week on Tuesday, Feb. 7. It marked the second Player of the Week award of her career. This week on Tuesday, Feb. 14, Alexis Zadjura took CAA Defensive Player of the Week after leading Elon’s defense with three draw controls, two ground balls and two caused turnovers while helping to keep three of Virginia’s top scorers to just two goals apiece in the game.
IN THE CAGE
Rachel Ramirez is off to a stellar start in goal for the Phoenix. In three games thus far, her 6.18 goals against average ranks fourth-best in the nation and is tops in the CAA. She sits second in the league in the early going in saves with 18.
Two Phoenix earned preseason All-CAA honors on Jan. 20 with Stephanie Asher and Rachel Ramirez being named to the All-CAA team and Sloane Kessler and Alexis Zadjura earning honorable mentions. In the preseason poll, Elon was selected to finish third behind Towson and James Madison. The third-place selection is the highest Elon has been in a preseason poll in the program’s brief history.
LOOKING BACK AT 2016
Elon posted its first winning season and first 10-win season in 2016 with an overall 10-7 record and 3-3 mark in the CAA. One of those victories was Elon’s 7-6 win at No. 10 Duke, the program’s first win over an ACC team and first win over a ranked opponent. At season’s end, the Phoenix finished No. 29 in the NCAA RPI. Elon was second in the CAA with 15.2 ground balls, 23.4 shots and just 10.9 turnovers per game in 2016 and Stephanie Asher was third in the conference with 2.2 goals per contest and fourth in assists with 1.2 per outing. Rachel Ramirez finished tops in the CAA with 3.06 ground balls a game, a total of 52 on the season.
HEAD COACH JOSH HEXTER
The 2017 campaign marks the fourth season at the helm of the program for head coach Josh Hexter after being hired in April 2012 to start and lead the Phoenix lacrosse program from the ground up. Named Atlantic Sun Coach of the Year in 2014, Hexter has amassed 101 wins in his career at Elon and Bridgewater State with a 29-24 record in 53 games at Elon. Over the course of his first three seasons, he has coached two conference freshmen of the year and a total of 12 all-conference players.
Elon opens a tough run with three of its next four games against ACC programs. Next time out, the Phoenix welcomes ACC foe Notre Dame to Rudd Field on Thursday, Feb. 23, at 6 p.m. Notre Dame is ranked No. 10 in the IWLCA Coaches poll and No. 8 in the Cascade/Inside Lacrosse Media poll. Notre Dame is 3-1 this season with wins over Liberty, Detroit and Marquette. The lone loss came in the season opener, 14-13, to Northwestern.