ELON, N.C. – The Elon University men’s soccer team officially opens its first season under new head coach Marc Reeves on Friday, Aug. 25, as the Phoenix kicks off the 2017 campaign at the John Rennie/Nike Invitational for the fifth straight year in Durham, N.C. Elon opens the tournament versus Fordham on Friday at 5 p.m. before concluding the weekend with a matchup versus Central Florida on Sunday, Aug. 27, at noon.
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.
Elon will face Fordham and UCF for the first time ever on the soccer pitch this weekend. This will also be the Phoenix’s fifth straight season competing at the prestigious John Rennie/Nike Invitational at Duke University. Since 2013, the maroon and gold has posted a 5-2-1 ledger at the tournament and spilt both of its meetings last year against UNC Asheville (W, 4-1) and San Diego (L, 1-2).
The Colonial Athletic Association announced its 2017 preseason coaches’ poll last week with the Phoenix earning 45 points for a fourth place predicted finish. William & Mary, who eliminated the Phoenix from the CAA Tournament last season, was tabbed as the league favorite with five first-place votes and 61 points overall. Defending regular-season champion Hofstra was second with three first-place votes and 52 points while UNCW also received a first-place tally and had 49 points.
In the previous 44 seasons, the Elon men’s soccer program has posted an 18-25-2 all-time record in its first match of the season. Last year, the Phoenix defeated UNC Asheville 4-1 in its opening match, winning in consecutive season openers since the 2005 and 2006 campaigns.
The Phoenix returns 22 letterwinners from its squad and brings back 88 percent of its goal scorers from last season. Elon will look to rebound from its 7-6-4 ledger from 2016, its fewest win total since 2011. Despite its down season a year ago, the maroon and gold has remained one of the more successful programs in the nation the past five years with 60 wins and a .657 winning percentage.
Senior Elijah Agu is the top returning goal scorer in the CAA as the Cary, N.C., native led the Phoenix with 11 goals last season. After earning first team All-CAA honors following his breakout junior campaign, Agu was named to the 2017 Preseason All-CAA team. Fellow senior Jonathan Coleby also received preseason All-CAA recognition as an honorable mention as the captain returns to anchor a Phoenix backline that allowed a league-low 15 goals last season.
Other notable returners include juniors Nick Adamczyk, who received second team All-CAA accolades last season after pacing the Phoenix with five assists, and Jaiden Fortune, who was second on the team in scoring with nine points (three goals, three assists). He also earned All-CAA honors with a third team selection in 2016. Redshirt junior keeper Matthew Jegier is back for his third season in goal after playing all but nine minutes between the posts in 2016. The Charlotte, N.C., native led the CAA in goals against average (0.83) and tied the league-lead with seven clean sheets.
Head Coach Marc Reeves
The Phoenix will be led by its first-year head coach Marc Reeves after taking over the reins of the program in February. Prior to Elon, Reeves spent the last seven seasons as the head coach at Radford University and led the Highlanders to an overall record of 75-43-20. He also guided He also guided RU to back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament in both 2015 and 2016 and three straight Big South Conference regular season titles.
Reeves was not the only newcomer on the Elon men’s soccer coaching staff this spring. Maciej Sliwinski joined the Phoenix in March after being a part of the Fairfield coaching staff the past two seasons including serving as the associate head coach during the 2016 season. Prior to Fairfield, Sliwinski was a member of Reeves’ coaching staff for five seasons at Radford. Elon also added former Buffalo assistant coach Matt Brown to its staff as its goalkeeper coach this fall. They both join holdover Brad Franks as the assistants for Reeves’ staff.
Fordham begins the 2017 season after coming off a successful 2016 campaign in which the Rams went 10-7-4, captured the Atlantic 10 championship and reached the NCAA Tournament. In the 2017 A-10 Preseason poll, the Rams were chosen to defend their league title and had five selections on the league’s preseason All-Conference team.
The Rams return a healthy portion of their squad from a year ago, including A-10 Offensive Player of the Year Janos Loebe, All-Atlantic 10 selections Jannik Loebe, Matthew Lewis, and Rashid Nuhu and All-Rookie Team pick Joergen Oland. The Rams are led by head coach Jim McElderry, who is in his 15th year at the helm of the Fordham men’s soccer program.
UCF, led by head coach first-year head coach Scott Calabrese, is coming off a 5-11 record in 2016 and was picked to finish fourth overall in the 2017 American Preseason Poll. Calabrese joined the Knights after spending the last three seasons at FIU after taking the program to its first NCAA Tournament appearance in over 10 years by capturing the 2015 Conference USA Championship.
UCF senior Matias Pyysalo was recognized as the 2017 American Athletic Conference Preseason Offensive Player of the Year by the league coaches. The 2016 American Athletic Conference Player of the Year paced the conference with 14 points and had 10 goals overall for the Knights.
After the John Rennie Nike Invitational, Elon hosts Presbyterian in its 2017 home regular-season opener on Saturday, Sept. 2. That match is scheduled for a 7 p.m. kickoff.