Spartans rally past Elon to complete unbeaten SoCon slate
ELON, N.C. – Jenn Partenheimer and Lauren Hein scored second-half goals to rally No. 16 UNCG to a 2-1 win over Elon on Thursday, running the Spartans' winning streak to a school-record 13 games and completing an undefeated Southern Conference slate.
Despite trailing at the half for the first time all season, UNCG improved to 16-1-1 on the year and finished the SoCon regular season with an 11-0-0 mark. The 11 wins are a league record for conference wins in the season, as UNCG's feat marks the first time a team has run the table since Samford joined the SoCon in 2008, pushing the membership to 12.
UNCG's unbeaten run is also is fourth in the last five seasons. The Spartans are 49-2-2 in SoCon regular-season play since 2006, with both losses coming last season.
Elon falls to 11-7-1, 6-5-0 in the SoCon, and will be the fifth seed in the upcoming SoCon tournament.
After a lackluster first half that saw the Phoenix jump out to 1-0 lead just 31 seconds in, UNCG ramped up its intensity in the second half. Partenheimer collected a pass from Cat Barnekow just outside the box in the 54th minute, weaving around a couple of Elon defenders and scoring from a tough angle from the right side of the box to knot the game at 1. The goal was her career-best seventh of the year.
Hein put the Spartans ahead for the first time on the day less than 10 minutes later, netting her fifth goal of the season at a most opportune time. Sophomore Katie Durst came up with a ball about 25 yards out and slipped a through ball to Hein at the top of the box. Hein raced in and beat Elon keeper Kristen Haney to the near post to make it a 2-1 game.
The Phoenix had a phenomenal chance to tie it late, as Chelsey Stark sent a shot in from the top corner of the box that seemed destined to sneak in under the crossbar. UNCG keeper Kelsey Kearney made a sensational save, however, backpedaling and tipping the ball up and over the bar to preserve the Spartans' lead.
Stark also had an opportunity just after Partenheimer's strike, taking a shot from the top corner of the box that Kearney just got a hand on to knock wide.
Elon threw the first punch in this one, as Brittany Hallberg got the Phoenix on the board in the blink of an eye by taking a pass from Stark and depositing it past a drawn-out Kearney just 31 seconds into the contest. That goal was the quickest against the Spartans in school history, bettering the previous record – which had stood since 2002 – by 42 seconds.
Neither side mustered much else in the way offense in the first half, as the sides had two shots each at the break.
Freshman Kristen Schmidbauer had perhaps UNCG's best chance in the opening frame and didn't even get off a shot. With a long cross coming in from the left wing, Schmidbauer slid onto the ball, having it glance off her leg and out of bounds.
Barnekow also had a solid look in the first half, lofting in a shot from the right wing that Haney wrapped up on the line. Kory Spotts had UNCG's only other look, but her long-range shot was saved by Haney just minutes into the contest.
UNCG outshot the Phoenix 8-4 for the contest, while corners were even at three apiece.
Top-seeded UNCG returns to action Sunday against No. 8 seed Wofford in the first round of the SoCon Championship. Kickoff is set for 2 p.m. at UNCG Soccer Stadium. The contest will also serve as a Think Pink game for the Spartans, with the first 100 fans through the gate getting a free pink T-shirt.
UNCG 2, Elon 1
Goals by period 1 2 Tot
UNCG................ 0 2 - 2
Elon................ 1 0 - 1
1. 0:31 ELON Brittany Hallberg (7) (Chelsey Stark)
2. 53:10 UNCG Jenn Partenheimer (7) (Cat Barnekow)
3. 62:18 UNCG Lauren Hein (Katie Durst)
Shots: UNCG 8, Elon 4
Saves: UNCG 3 (Kelsey Kearney 3), Elon 2 (Kristen Haney 2)
Corner kicks: UNCG 3, Elon 3
Fouls: UNCG 4, Elon 4
- UNCG -