NEWARK, Del. – The Elon University men’s soccer team clinched the final spot for the Colonial Athletic Association tournament with a 1-0 victory at league foe Delaware on Saturday night, Oct. 28. Amir Berkane’s penalty kick goal and Matthew Jegier’s new program-record 26th career shutout helped the Phoenix over the Blue Hens at Stuart and Suzanne Grant Stadium.
Elon went to 7-4-6 on the season and 3-2-3 during league play after coming into the match needing a win or a draw over the Blue Hens to qualify for the CAA Tournament for the fourth straight year. The Phoenix also leveled the series all-time against the Blue Hens (5-7-4, 2-4-2 CAA) at 2-2-1 with both of Elon’s victories coming at Newark.
“The CAA really is an incredibly strong league,” said Elon head coach Marc Reeves. “Delaware is a well-coached team that play great soccer and for it to come down to tonight and only one of these two teams to be in just shows how tight and tough the season has been. We have played a very strong schedule and this group has dealt with some different situations throughout the season. We found a way through to be in the tourney and now need to do even more as a group to prepare correctly for our next opportunity as we look to advance and extend our season.”
Elon opened the match with an early shot on goal by Nicholas O’Callaghan, who headed the ball towards the goal inside the second minute. That forced Blue Hens’ keeper Todd Morton to make the one-handed save to knock the ball out of play to give the Phoenix a corner kick. Elon however ended up not capitalizing on the set piece.
Both teams spent majority of the opening session battling back and forth with the Blue Hens seemingly having more possession of the ball in the first period. Elon and Delaware ended up tied at 5-5 in shots in the opening half with the Blue Hens having two shots on goal compared to one for the Phoenix.
Elon best chance in the first half came near the 30th minute. Marcel Fahrenholz was able to intercept a pass in the Phoenix’s offensive third and maneuvered towards the keeper one-on-one forcing the netminder to step up. Fahrenholz was able to slip a pass to his left to Ronni Mleczkovicz who faced an open net in front of him. The Gothenburg, Sweden, native pushed the ball wide left of the goal keeping the match scoreless for the opening stanza.
In the 55th minute in the second half, Mleczkovicz penetrated deep into Elon’s offensive third and took on the keeper one-on-one. Morton stood his ground and made the save to keep the Phoenix off the scoreboard.
Close to the 63rd minute, Elon avoided the Blue Hens tacking on the first goal of the match. Delaware sent in a corner kick towards the far post that found the foot of Fede Prieto, who pushed a quick shot towards the inside post. An Elon defender was able to get his foot in the way to clear it just before it crossed the line.
Inside the 74th minute, Elon would get set up for the only score of the game. Jack Willbye played a cross down the field and moved inside to the top left corner of the box. The Cambridge, England, native was fouled by a Delaware defender with the referee quickly awarding the Phoenix with the penalty kick.
Berkane was chosen for the assignment and slotted his second goal of the season by the keeper to give Elon the 1-0 lead. Both of Berkane’s goals this season have come off penalties.
Delaware spent the rest of the match moving numbers forward as the Blue Hens needed a pair of scores to keep their season alive. The Blue Hens peppered the Phoenix with six shots while earning four corners over the final 15 minutes of the match.
Elon held strong including after Delaware earned a free kick just outside the box with 20 seconds remaining. The kick sailed towards the left inside post, but Jegier made the leaping two-handed stop to close the door on Delaware’s final opportunity for an equalizer and hung on for the 1-0 win.
Inside the Box Score
• Jegier surpassed Nathan Dean ’14 for the program’s all-time career clean sheet record. The Charlotte, N.C., native also tied Clint Irwin’s school-record with his 10th shutout of the season.
• Jegier ended the match credited with four saves. Elon also had a pair of team saves in the match. Morton had two saves for the Blue Hens.
• Delaware won the shot battle over the Phoenix, 15-8, with a 6-3 shots on goal advantage. The Blue Hens also outgained Elon in corners, 7-1.
• O’Callaghan led the Phoenix with three shots in the match. Mleczkovicz had two for the maroon and gold.
• Elon tied its season-long win streak with its third in a row and also its second straight on the road.
• Berkane became the fifth player for Elon this season to score multiple goals.
As the No. 6 seed, the Phoenix will travel to No. 3 seed College of Charleston in the quarterfinal round of the CAA Tournament next Saturday, Nov. 4, at 2 p.m. The semifinals and the championship match will be held in Harrisonburg, Va., at the site of No. 1 seed James Madison on the weekend of Nov. 10-12.