GREENSBORO, N.C. – After being shutout in its first two matches of the season, UNCG was having no more of being left off of the score sheet. The Spartans netted a pair of first-half goals on the way to a 2-1 victory in the home opener Thursday night against Elon.
“That was really impressive,” said head coach Michael Coll. “We know a lot of Elon players, in fact a lot of our players and their players are friends from clubs and what not. To match what they are going to bring to a game like this, plus they’re a local rival who we beat at their place last year, we knew it was going to be a battle. Not to mention, they won two games in Florida last week, scoring six goals. We knew they were going to give us a battle and we matched it thankfully.”
Contrary to what you might expect, it was the Spartan defensive back line that did the heavy lifting as far as scoring goals in the match. Gabbi Charles (Noblesville, Ind./Noblesville) demonstrated another splendid effort, leading all players with three points on a goal and an assist, while Emily Jensen (Nelson, New Zealand/Santa Clara) also got in on the scoring fun.
The game got off to a fairly tame start, with neither team posing too much of a threat to the other’s goal through the first 20 minutes. However, that changed quickly in the 23rd minute when Charles swung in a dangerous corner kick from the left flag to the far post and Jensen’s header carried back across the face of goal and in, giving UNCG it’s first goal of the year and a 1-0 advantage.
Just a few minutes later, Charles doubled the Spartan lead on what seemed more likely a cross than an attempt on net. The Spartans’ resident Hoosier bent in a ball seeking the head of Caylin Prillaman (High Point, N.C./Wesleyan Christian Academy) but instead found the side netting inside the left post.
Elon managed to half its deficit just before heading into the break. The Phoenix earned a corner kick in the 42nd minute and Jenny Riemer delivered a nicely placed ball toward the near post. Spartan keeper Aiyanah Tyler-Cooper (Charlottesville, Va./Albamarle) was unable to coral the ball and Sussanah Anderson took advantage.
In the second half, the Spartans had to put in work defensively to maintain their lead. UNCG survived a scare in the 67th minute minute as Elon produced three chances to tie the game in rapid succession. Off of a corner, Rakel Jonsdottir’s strike was cleared off the line by Marissa Ferrantino (Woodbridge, Va./Osbourn Park) and Kara Kimberl’s follow up was blocked. Tori Bialatico then got a clean look but sent her shot wide for a goal kick.
Down the stretch the Spartan legs began to grow weary, resulting in some sloppy giveaways in dangerous positions. However, UNCG was able to win ugly in the end, something that Coll believes will pay dividends down the road.
“I want to thank Elon for really testing us and showing us just how good we can be when things are stacked against us,” continued Coll. “We reacted tremendously to it and again I thank Elon because it showed us that we can do this.”
UNCG returns to the UNCG Soccer Stadium on Sunday, hosting No. 13 Clemson at 6 p.m. The match marks the return of former Spartan head coach Eddie Radwanski, who heads up the Tiger squad. Radwanski served as UNCG gaffer from 2001-10.