CULLOWHEE, N.C. – Lily Harkes’ first-career goal late in the first half was canceled out by a second-half strike from Western Carolina’s Mackenzie Wright and Elon University women’s soccer’s match against the Catamounts finished as a 1-1 draw after 110 minutes on Thursday night, Aug. 23, at Catamount Sports Complex.
“This was a difficult game against a physical opponent,” said head coach Neil Payne. “I think for us, the end result, the final pass, it just wasn’t quite there. We struggled to get into a rhythm, which is a credit to Western Carolina. But, we have the quality to play out of that and we had it in moments, we just couldn’t put a full game together tonight.”
The Phoenix moves to 1-0-2 with the draw, while Western Carolina’s record becomes 1-1-1 overall with the result.
Tori Baliatico created Elon’s best chance in the opening minutes and her shot from the right side of the box clanked off the crossbar in the 16th minute.
Harkes put the Phoenix on the board in the 40th minute. Kate McKay played a perfect long ball from midfield to Harkes who used her head to score from 10 yards for her first-career goal.
In the second half, Western Carolina leveled the match in the 77th minute as Mackenzie Wright’s shot deflected off a defender and slipped past Elon goalkeeper Valentina Estrada.
Elon got one more chance before the end of regulation after being awarded a free kick just outside the box with less than minutes on the clock. McKay’s attempt would be Elon’s crossbar hit in the match and the contest went to overtime.
The Phoenix would get two great chances at the start of extra time as Taylor Paradoski had a shot in the 93rd minute saved off a through ball from Carson Jones. Baliatico came up with Elon’s final opportunity in the closing minutes of the first overtime, but her deflected shot was cleared off the line by a WCU defender in the 98th minute.
“Our team showed some resilience, they dug in, they dealt with a long direct style of play, they were always going to be put under that kind of pressure, and I was pleased with the way we showed some poise in those moments,” Payne added.
Estrada came up with three saves for the Phoenix in her third-career start. Western Carolina had the slight 14-10 edge in shots, but Elon had the 3-2 advantage in corner kicks.
– This is the first time Elon has been unbeaten in its opening three matches since the 2013 season.
– The Phoenix hit the woodwork at least twice for the third straight match.
The Phoenix heads to nearby Durham, N.C. on Sunday, Aug. 26, to take on the No. 11-ranked Duke Blue Devils at 5 p.m.