Phoenix set AU’s late-game surge ablaze in a thriller

The Eagles ultimately couldn’t put the ball in the goal

Phoenix set AU’s late-game surge ablaze in a thriller

AU's Ashley Molz against William & Mary.

Elon University defeated the American University women’s soccer team (3-4) 1-0 in a defensive struggle, despite a late second-half rally from the Eagles. 

The Sept. 12 game was a tightly contested affair from the start, with little offensive success coming for either team. The game ultimately came down to which team’s defense and goalkeeper could play without error. 

Unfortunately for the Eagles, they were not perfect, and a cross from Elon’s Abby Fusca found midfielder Sarah Bevington, whose header passed AU freshman goalie Juila Kato in the 16th minute to put Elon up 1-0. 

AU’s defense kept the team in the game, despite giving up the lone goal of the match. At several points, their defense prevented Elon, who is third in the Colonial Athletic Association in shots per game, from scoring again. 

AU defender and graduate student Asia Horne had an immaculate performance, stopping two scoring chances for Elon late in the first half within a minute of each Phoenix opportunity, former Patriot League Defensive Player of the Week freshman Jordan Mahony frustrated Elon’s offensive outbursts and junior Natalie Oliver played the entire 90 minutes. 

“I think all throughout the game our defense was solid,” head coach Marsha Harper said. “I think defensively as a team we tried to be first to every ball, and we had several players in the backline do well.”

The Eagles’ defensive performance was not matched with offensive success, and AU was unable to equalize the score, despite having multiple scoring opportunities. The Eagles started the game aggressive on offense, but were unsuccessful against a Phoenix team, despite Virginia Tech obliterating them, who’ve given up only two goals in the previous six games. 

The Eagles were only able to muster one shot in the first half, as AU’s best scorer senior Tate Jordan fired a shot in the 32nd minute that sailed over the goal. 

“We started the game strong, but we fell off in the second part of the first half,” Harper said. “That was a mentality thing. [Elon] was more intentional in connecting with their passes.”

AU’s offense began to fight through Elon’s oppressive backline in the second half. The Eagles flooded the Phoenix end of the field, dominating time of possession as AU bombarded Elon with 14 shots in the second half. Junior midfielder Ashley Molz led the Eagles’ late all-out assault with four shots, Jordan sent three more balls towards the net and the Eagles came within inches of tying late in the second half twice.

In the 64th minute, AU senior captain Juliana Saling broke past Elon’s backline and sent in a heat-seeking missile strike that Elon goalkeeper McKenna Dalfonso barely tipped out of bounds. 

But in the 78th minute, Molz fired another precision strike past Dalfonso, one of the few times the Phoenix goalie was beaten all day, that pinged off the crossbar. AU threatened the rest of the game, but all attempts at tying the game late were stymied by Dalfonso, who collected her fourth shut-out win of the season.

“It’s on us to finish those [scoring] opportunities,” Molz said. “I think we need to stay composed when we’re on the ball. I think we need to relax.”

AU’s inability to score has been a concern all year. The Eagles failed to convert on seven corner kicks against Elon, have been shut out three times this season and are ranked ninth out of 10 teams in the Patriot League in both total goals scored and goals per game. 

“I’m proud of the way we finished the [second] half,” Harper said. “I think the girls are starting to see the patterns in their heads, and they’re starting to connect.”

Despite the loss, Molz said that the Eagles played well, and were heading in the right direction as a team.

“I thought we put together a complete game,” Molz said. “Our possession looked great, we were implementing what we’ve been working on in practice, and it’s great to see that.”

The Eagles will return to Reeves Field to battle Holy Cross to begin Patriot League play on Sept. 18 at 3 p.m. ET.

bmorse@theeagleonline.com

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