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Sunday win puts Elon back in CAA soccer title game with Hofstra

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Hofstra will visit Saturday for conference tournament final 

By Bob Sutton

Special to The Alamance News

Elon’s quest to add to its regular-season championship in Colonial Athletic Association men’s soccer with a tournament title took a positive turn Sunday afternoon.

The Phoenix had to work hard to fend off determined Drexel in a quarterfinal game, winning 1-0 at Rudd Field.

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“Just that feeling of being in a semifinal game, a little bit more pressure,” Elon goalkeeper Ryan Bilichuk said. “I think we’re a mature team, so I think we dealt with it pretty well and we were able to keep their chances to a limit.”

Goalkeeper Ryan Bilichuk makes another save near the end of the game to make a perfect shutout against Drexel.

It took Ben Rosenblatt’s first goal of the season and goalkeeper Bilichuk’s school-record 11th shutout of the season to get it done amid off and on rain.

“However you get it done,” Rosenblatt said. “It was a tough game, but I think we deserved it.”

Next for the top-seeded Phoenix (11-3-3) will be the CAA Tournament final against defending champion third-seeded Hofstra (13-3-3), which upset second-seeded UNC Wilmington 2-1. That game is set for noon Saturday at Elon’s Rudd Field.

“To be back in the final for the second year in a row is a great achievement for the group,” Elon coach Marc Reeves said. “If you can keep winning, you keep playing. Anytime you get yourself back to a final, you’re going for a title and an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament.”

Rosenblatt converted a header off Marco Vesterholm’s pass about 20½ minutes into the first half.

“The two defenders in front of me thought I wasn’t getting it,” Rosenblatt said of the sequence.

Rosenblatt missed the first 11 games of the season with a broken leg. He finally made it on the scoresheet, and hopes it’s just the beginning.

“Maybe a few more,” he said.

Then the Phoenix had to withstand considerable pressure from the fifth-seeded Dragons (7-5-6), who held a 20-11 advantage in shots. It was a 13-3 margin in the second half.

“Sometimes be happy with the result,” Reeves said.

Drexel had two shots hit the crossbar or post in the final five minutes.

“It was a lot of the situations,” Bilichuk said. “They did a good job of putting threatening balls into the area. At the end of the day, we dealt with what we could. There’s a reason why we finished first in the regular season. We take that with us and wear it proudly and go out there and try to get the win.”

Now it’s a rematch of the 2021 title game. This season on October 15, Elon won 3-1 at Hofstra.

“The way our season has unfolded, I think it was an expectation (that we’d advance to the final),” Rosenblatt said.

The Pride showcases NCAA goals leader Eliot Goldthorp, who has scored 15 times.

Drexel had been in the area for several days, eliminating fourth-seeded Northeastern 1-0 in Thursday night’s quarterfinal at Elon. The Phoenix received a bye to the semifinals.

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