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Phoenix men's soccer wins first SoCon tournament title

Elon defeated UNCG 3-2 in Sunday's tournament title game.

Phoenix men's soccer team celebrates with the SoCon tournament trophy following Sunday's victory.

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Two goals from junior Jordan Smith propelled the Elon Phoenix to the 2011 Southern Conference Men’s Soccer Tournament title with a 3-2 victory over regular-season champion UNCG at ASU Soccer Stadium on Sunday afternoon. Elon (9-10-2) earns the league’s automatic bid to the 2011 NCAA Tournament.

“This is a fantastic first for the program,” said Elon head coach Darren Powell. “It is something that we have been working towards and building for many years. I am extremely proud of not only our current players but also everyone who has been part of the program. All of our former players, coaches and support staff make it extra special to share this time. Now we will await our bid to the NCAA Tournament and hope we can represent the SoCon with pride this year.”

The SoCon Tournament title is the first for the Elon men’s soccer program. As the six seed in the tournament, Elon became the second-lowest seed to ever win the SoCon crown. The Phoenix will now make its first-ever appearance in the NCAA Division I Men’s Soccer Tournament. The selection show will be streamed live on www.ncaa.com beginning at 4:30 p.m. on Monday, November 14.

Elon saw its three-goal lead dwindle to a one-goal advantage with less than eight minutes to go when UNCG capitalized on back-to-back scores from Brian Graham. But, another strong defensive effort from the Phoenix defense contained the top-seeded Spartans as Elon held on for the crown. The goals were the first Elon has allowed in a victory all season as the Phoenix’s other eight victories came in shutout fashion.

The Phoenix controlled much of the possession in the first half, creating several opportunities early in the match. Chris Thomas had back-to-back chances, narrowly missing on a shot that went just wide of the far post six minutes into the contest. Midway through the half, Lovtiz sent a great ball from the left side to the far post where Gabe Latigue one-touched it at the goal, but UNCG keeper Peyton Ford made one of his five first-half stops.

Finally in the 43rd minute, Smith knocked in his first score of the game. Danny Lovitz pushed the ball forward on a breakaway to Smith who beat two UNCG defenders and knocked in the goal from about 15 yards out.

Early in the final period, Elon was awarded its first penalty kick of the season after a takedown in the box. Latigue drilled the PK at the 47:22 mark to give the Phoenix a two-goal advantage.

Smith cushioned the Phoenix lead in the 74th minute, dribbling around Ford who had come out of the goal and finishing in the open net.

The regular-season champs didn’t go down easy and tried to rally in the final 10 minutes of the contest. The Spartans were awarded an indirect free kick after Elon was whistled for a foul in its own penalty box. Will Mack took the indirect kick from about six yards out that was deflected off the Elon wall, but Graham was able connect on the rebound and trim the lead to 3-1.

Minutes later, UNCG’s Cameron Owens dribbled down the left side of the field and served the ball in the box where Graham headed home his second goal of the game to make it a one-goal game.

Elon stayed focused and staved off any remaining UNCG attack to take home the hardware.

Senior midfielder Nick Millington was named the tournament’s most outstanding player and he joined Elon’s Austen King, Latigue and Smith on the all-tournament team.

 

Dan Anderson,
Staff
11/13/2011 7:21 PM