ELON, N.C. – Elon University women’s soccer continues its three match home stand at Rudd Field with challenging matchups against Western Carolina on Thursday night, Aug. 31 and No. 20-ranked NC State on Sunday night, Sept. 3. Both matches against in-state foes will kick off at 7 p.m.
FOLLOW THE PHOENIX
Updates on the Phoenix’s matches against the Catamounts and Wolfpack will be provided on Twitter at the handle @elonscores or the program’s handle, @ElonWSoccer. Watch the NC State match on Sunday live on Phoenix All-Access. You can also follow the action for both match with live stats.
RANKED OPPONENT VISITS RUDD FIELD
The Phoenix hosts No. 20-ranked NC State on Sunday evening at Rudd Field. It will be the second time Elon has hosted a ranked opponent in program history and the first time since 2010 when the Phoenix played host to No. 16 UNCG at Rudd Field.
The Phoenix will face in-state foes for the second and third time in the last four matches. Elon has faced both teams a combined 26 times in program history.
Thursday’s matchup will be the 14th meeting between Elon and Western Carolina since they began the series in 2003. Elon holds a 5-3-5 lead in the series and is undefeated in the last seven meetings with Western Carolina. The Phoenix defeated the Catamounts in the last matchup, 1-0, on Sept. 4, 2016 in Cullowhee. Western Carolina’s last win against Elon was a 2-1 double overtime win on Oct. 12, 2008.
Elon and NC State will meet for the 14th time on Sunday evening, and the fifth time on the campus of Elon University. It will be the first time the Phoenix has faced a ranked NC State squad since Elon became a Division I program in 1999. The maroon and gold have faced a ranked Wolfpack team before, when they face No. 2 NC State on Sept. 10, 1989. Last contest against the Wolfpack on Aug. 27, 2015 was a tight contest with NC State escaping with a 2-0 victory at Dail Soccer Stadium.
COMING OUT FIRING
Elon has scored 11 goals over its first four games, the most since scoring the same amount in the first four games of the 2013 season. The Phoenix scored six goals across the first two games of the regular season, which tied for the fifth-most in program history to open a season. It is the most in a two-game span to start a season since Elon scored nine goals in 1993, before anyone on the current roster was born. Elon was also unbeaten on opening weekend for the first time since 2013.
The Phoenix is off to a fast start picking up three wins in its first four games, which included two road wins in Florida to open the season and a home-opening win against Chattanooga on Sunday. Meredith Christopher put on a display with four goals and two assists to lead the Phoenix, including a hat trick in a 4-2 win at North Florida on Aug. 18. Susannah Anderson has been a goal scoring machine scoring in each of the last three games. She is the first player to score in at least three straight games since Nicole Dennion scored in four straight during the 2013 season. Additionally, Kendall Ballotti, Carson Jones, Lauren McKeever and Taylor Paradoski have each scored once this season.
Head coach Chris Neal, the winningest coach in program history, has begun his 10th season with the Phoenix, which returns 19 players from the 2016 campaign.
Out of the 19 returners, nine players made starts in nine or more matches in 2016. Highlighting the returners is Ballotti who was named to the All-CAA First Team last season. The Phoenix returns four of its top five scorers from last season Ballotti, Tori Baliatico, Sydney Schilling, and 2016 All-CAA Rookie Team selection Taylor Paradoski. Susannah Anderson, Elon’s top assist leader last year, will also return to Elon’s back line at center back. Additionally, sophomore goalkeeper Katelyn Fowler returns after earning CAA Rookie of the Week honors and posting the second-lowest goals against average (0.78) in the CAA for league matches as a freshman. Elon brings 10 newcomers into the fold, Valentina Estrada, Reena Wichmann, Hailey Tucker, Ashley Rumley, Kara Kimbrel, Carson Jones, Meredith Christopher, Olivia Kraebel, Avery Gardner, and Caylin Meikrantz.
NC State’s freshman midfielder, Naomi Powell, is the daughter of former Elon head men’s soccer coach and current manager of San Antonio FC, Darren Powell. Powell was a four-time SoCon Coach of the Year and guided the Elon men’s soccer program to three straight NCAA tournament appearances and three straight SoCon tournament titles in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
CHRISTOPHER NAMED CAA PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Freshman forward Meredith Christopher was named the CAA Player of the Week on Monday, Aug. 21, after scoring four goals and adding an assist during Elon’s 2-0 opening week. Christopher scored her first-career hat trick and the first by an Elon player since Nicole Dennion in 2013. It was also the first season-opening hat trick by a Phoenix since Kate Schabo in 2002. Christopher scored her first three goals in just under 16 minutes to help the Phoenix defeat North Florida, 4-2, on Friday, Aug. 18. The Fort Mill, S.C. native also added a goal and her first-career assist in Elon’s 2-1 win against Jacksonville on Sunday. Christopher was also named an Honorable Mention on TopDrawerSoccer.com’s Team of the Week.
BALLOTTI AND BENNETT HONORED
Seniors Kendall Ballotti and Grace Bennett received Preseason All-CAA Honorable Mention honors from the league on Friday, August 11. Ballotti was a All-CAA First Team selection as a junior in 2016 after scoring three goals and adding one assist for seven total points at the center back position. She also logged a team-high 1,581 minutes and became program’s first All-CAA First Team selection. Ballotti anchored a back line that posted three CAA shutouts last season, which ranked second in the league. Bennett earned Preseason All-CAA recognition after starting in all 18 matches she played in last season. Starting in the central midfield, Bennett clocked 1,367 minutes of action, scoring a goal and adding an assist.
BREAKING DOWN WESTERN CAROLINA
After opening the 2017 campaign with a win against Morehead State, Western Carolina brings a two game skid into Thursday’s contest and will be looking for its first win on the road this season. Elon will be the Catamounts’ third straight road opponent after falling in tight matches at Belmont and Tennessee Tech last weekend. Megan McCallister leads the team in scoring with two goals and an assist for five points through three matches. Additionally, Emily Threatt, Sayres McKenna and Jordan Dawsey have each scored for Western Carolina. The Catamounts were picked to finish seventh in the 2017 SoCon Women’s Soccer Preseason Poll.
SCOUTING #20 NC STATE
After making a run to the Round of 16 at the 2016 NCAA Championships, the NC State Wolfpack have gotten off to a great start in 2017 with a perfect 3-0 start and moving up to No. 20 in the latest United Soccer Coaches Poll. They moved up from No. 25 in the Aug. 22 ranking following a 3-0 victory over Coastal Carolina on Aug. 24. The Wolfpack also have made their first appearance in Soccer America poll this week at No. 25. NC State opened the season with two strong road wins against Portland and Oregon. Sophomore Tziarra King has had a strong start to the season with two goals and three assists for a team-high seven points and earned a spot on TopDrawerSoccer.com’s Team of the Week after the team’s opening weekend in Oregon. Kia Rankin has also gotten on the score sheet twice this season, while four others have added a goal each. NC State was picked to finish seventh in the 2017 ACC Preseason Poll.
Elon will hit the road on Thursday, Sept. 7, to take on Richmond at 7 p.m. before returning back to Rudd Field on Sunday, Sept. 10, to host triad rival High Point for a 7 p.m. matchup.