ELON, N.C. – Elon University women’s soccer continues non-conference action this week, which begins with a road matchup on Thursday night, Sept. 7 at Richmond for a 7:30 p.m. kickoff, and is followed by a return to Rudd Field on Sunday, Sept. 10, to face Triad rival High Point at 7 p.m.
FOLLOW THE PHOENIX
Updates on the Phoenix’s matches against the Spiders and the Panthers will be provided on Twitter at the handle @elonscores or the program’s handle, @ElonWSoccer. Watch the Richmond match live on the Atlantic 10 Network and the High Point match on Sunday on Phoenix All-Access. You can also follow the action for both match with live stats.
The Phoenix will face in-state foes for the fourth time in the last six matches when it faces High Point. Elon has faced both teams a combined 23 times in program history.
Thursday’s matchup will be the second meeting between Elon and Richmond. In the first-ever meeting last season on Sept. 11, 2016, the match finished in a 3-3 draw after two overtime periods. Nyah Spearman, Alexis de Groot and Erin Tanhauser all scored for the Phoenix.
Elon and High Point will meet for the 22nd time on Sunday evening, and the 11th time on the campus of Elon University. Elon holds the all time lead in the series 13-4-4, but High Point won the last meeting on Aug. 21, 2016 with a 2-1 victory at Rudd Field. Tori Baliatico was the lone goal scorer for the Phoenix in that contest.
COMING OUT FIRING
Elon 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 also 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.
Elon has cooled off after a hot start and will look to bounce back after a loss to No. 20 NC State and a 1-1 draw versus Western Carolina at Rudd Field. The Phoenix got off to a fast start with 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 Rudd Field. Susannah Anderson has been a goal scoring in four straight matches from Aug. 20-31. She became the first Elon player to score in four straight matches since Nicole Dennion did so in 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 Kimberl, Carson Jones, Meredith Christopher, Olivia Kraebel, Avery Gardner, and Caylin Meikrantz.
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. 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 RICHMOND
Richmond is in search of its first win of the season and will return home for the first time in three matches when it faces Elon on Thursday. The Spiders have only lost by one goal in each of its last three matches, including a 1-0 loss to No. 3 Virginia on Sunday, a 1-0 double overtime loss at Maryland on Aug. 31, and a 2-1 defeat to James Madison on Aug. 27. Richmond also lost 5-1 in its season-opener against Iowa on Aug. 20 at Robins Stadium. Alyssa Walker and Mackenzie Cox each have scored for the Spiders this season. Senior Lexi Prillaman will be the player to watch as she was a Atlantic 10 Preseason All-Conference selection. She scored 12 goals and had eight assists in 2016.
SCOUTING HIGH POINT
High Point has lost three straight matches heading into the week. The Panthers have faced a tough schedule thus far with matchups against Georgia, No. 3 South Carolina and Ole Miss. High Point suffered a 1-0 loss against UNCG on Monday night and will hit the road to face Auburn on Friday before facing the Phoenix on Sunday. Maggie Gruber and Paige Rombach each have a goal this season for the Panthers. High Point was picked to finish second in the Big South according to the Big South Preseason Poll. Goalkeeper Alex Hank was selected as the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
Elon will close out non-conference action next week with a pair of road matches. The Phoenix travels to face UNC Asheville on Thursday, Sept. 14, at 7 p.m., follow by a road test at Davidson on Sunday, Sept. 17, at 2 p.m.