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Men's soccer plays Duke to 1-1 draw, looks to carry momentum into rivalry with UNCG

by Justin Veldhuis,
  • The Elon men's soccer tied 1-1 with No. 9 ranked Duke Blue Devils on Tuesday night. Photo by Julia Murphy

  • Elon scored 74 minutes into the game, resulting in a draw 1-1. Photo by Julia Murphy.

  • Elon's senior goalkeeper, Clint Irwin, blocks a goal from Duke. Photo by Julia Murphy

The Elon University men's soccer team fought its way back from a one-goal deficit to tie the No. 9 ranked Duke Blue Devils on Tuesday night at Rudd Field. 

After giving up a goal in the 56th minute, the Phoenix was able to respond and get an equalizer in the 74th minute as a cross from forward Denzel Ogunyase deflected off of a Duke defender and into the net for an own goal.

"Duke is an extremely talented team and they're in the top ten in all the polls for a reason," head coach Darren Powell said.  "Our guys showed tremendous character to come back from a goal down against one of the top teams in the country."

While the team wasn't "ecstatic" with the result, senior goalkeeper Clint Irwin said it would take it, especially against such a quality opponent.

"They're a very good team and they gave us all we could handle," said Irwin, who tied a career-high with nine saves. "They've got some players who are future professionals on that team."

Duke dominated possession in the first half, which led Powell to make some adjustments at halftime that changed the flow of the game.  The Phoenix altered its formation from a 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1, which added another midfielder while leaving only one forward up top. 

"We felt they were getting too much time and space in the midfield so we added an extra midfielder in there and it seemed to clog up their attack," Powell said.

Ogunyase dropped off from forward to play in the midfield and provided a spark in the second half, as he was able to create chances on the right wing by taking on defenders.

"I get to be one-on-one instead of playing up top where there are four guys on you," Ogunyase said.  "You have a lot more space to run at people."

The tactical moves gave the Phoenix more possession and caused a shift in momentum.

"Denzel came in tonight and gave the team a lift," Powell said.  "He was able to attack the outside of the defender and that's how he delivered the ball for the goal."

The team is now 3-2-3 on the season and will look to continue its momentum at 7 p.m. Oct. 2 at UNC Greensboro.  The game has an extra edge being a Southern Conference game, Powell said, as well as a local rivalry.

"UNCG is a very talented squad," Powell said.  "It doesn't matter how good either team is; that game is always intense.  Our task is to get rested and prepared for Saturday night for our local derby."

The team's goal is to win the conference and reach the NCAA tournament, Irwin said, and upcoming conference games against UNCG and the College of Charleston "will be really good indicators of what we can do this year," he said.

After taking on UNCG, the Phoenix will play home games against West Virginia University at 7 p.m. Oct. 6 and Charleston at 7 p.m. Oct. 9 and then play at Clemson University Oct. 12.  Powell said that tough games on the schedule "keep coming thick and fast" but that the team is looking forward to each challenge. 

"We want to challenge ourselves in practice everyday and on game day," Powell said.  "Soccer is a year round focus for these guys and these are the games we look forward to.  It's the best time of the year for us."