LEXINGTON, Va. – Despite an even matchup statistically, the Elon Phoenix scored two goals in the first 14 minutes of play and never looked back, as they posted a 4-0 win over the VMI Keydets in women’s soccer action Friday at Patchin Field. The game was played before a crowd of 823 fans, the highest attendance for a home game in VMI women’s soccer history.
After the Keydets (0-2) had a goal wiped off the board in the third minute, Elon (1-1-1) countered in the eighth minute. Julie Hibberd made a run down the right sideline and played a cross into the box, an attempt that was headed home by Samantha Burch for an early goal and a 1-0 Phoenix lead. Jaclyn Wood added a score just over six minutes later, when a VMI defender headed a ball out of danger, but directly to Wood’s feet at the top of the box. The resultant shot found the upper left corner of the net, making it 2-0 Elon, and the visitors would add two second-half goals to account for the final margin.
Despite the final score, the game was relatively close statistically, as the Keydets held a 9-8 lead in shots. VMI also earned four of the match’s five corner kicks.
"Coming into this game, we knew Elon represented a quality side despite their record and performance against Duke last weekend," said VMI head coach Bryan Williams. "They proved that in the first half today by playing a very patient, ball-controlled and attacking style of soccer that left us down 2-0 at halftime. That being said, I was very proud of the way our team responded through the majority of the second half by stepping out and putting pressure on Elon's goal and back line consistently. I also felt our defense played much better in the second half, giving credit to Mackenzie Harrmann, Kacey Hall and Bridgette Pouliot. I also felt that there was quality play at midfield and into the attack from Allie Segura, Simone Jimenez and both Erika Boggs and Erica Putney. I felt the second half showed what this team is truly capable of and felt that the overall statistics indicated the true closeness of today's game despite the final score. We look forward to next Saturday's match with USC Aiken and continuing to improve."
After a 20-minute rainstorm during warm-ups, the weather changed to a cloudy, 80-degree day with very little wind as action started. The Keydets mounted the first offensive threat, with Christelle Ndongo making a run into the box to Elon keeper Kate Murphy’s left. Ndongo played the ball into the middle for Allie Segura, who got tangled up with a Phoenix defender. Segura won the ball, however, and spun to her left to get off a sliding shot. The ball beat Murphy for a would-be goal, but was waved off due to an offside violation. Moments later, Hibberd found Burch to stake the visitors to a 1-0 lead.
VMI, meanwhile, had tested Murphy twice, in both the sixth and eighth minutes, but the Elon keeper was up to the task on both occasions. The Phoenix threatened again in the 12th minute, but on a 1 vs. 0 breakaway, Mackenzie Harrmann came out and dueled the ball away from the attacking player to prevent a shot from being attempted. Elon struck again, however, in the 14th minute, as Wood found the back of the net to Harrmann’s right to make it 2-0, visitors.
From there, the contest settled down a bit, as only three shots were attempted over the next 21 minutes. The squads traded tries beginning at 32:47, when Burch missed wide for Elon, and at 34:26, when Meredith Baldasare was wide for the Keydets. In the 36th minute, Simone Jimenez tried a header off a corner kick, but Murphy leapt high to secure the pop-up, keeping Elon’s edge at 2-0.
Pouliot missed well wide in the 41st minute, and an Elon shot in the waning seconds of the half was also well off as the first half concluded. Over the initial 45 minutes, the visiting squad held a 6-5 edge in shot, with Murphy’s three saves also proving key.
The Keydets came out with the advantage to start the second half, controlling possession early on. Murphy was forced to stop a Segura header in the 52nd minute, while a Ndongo try was blocked five minutes later. VMI also had multiple deep runs that the Elon defense stopped, maintaining a 2-0 Phoenix lead.
From there, neither team could muster a shot attempt until the 78th minute, when perhaps the game’s most dramatic moment occurred. Liz Affronti hit a corner kick from the left side of the field, and the ball found Segura’s feet eight yards out. She quickly fired a shot, but an Elon defender cut to the side of goalkeeper Murphy and deflected the ball away to keep the Keydets from scoring.
On the counter attack, Olivia Mackey fired a shot from just outside the box. It tipped off a VMI defender, and that redirection allowed it to get past Harrmann for a goal, giving Elon a 3-0 advantage. That cushion grew to 4-0 in the 82nd minute, when Raychel Diver headed home a cross from Caroline O’Dee to account for the final margin.
Harrmann had one save in net for VMI, while Murphy stopped four shots for in Elon’s victory. VMI women’s soccer returns to action Sept. 1, concluding a three-game homestand by facing USC Aiken. Game time is set for 1 p.m.