After nearly three weeks of away games, road-weary William and Mary looked forward to revisiting the friendly confines of Martin Family Stadium with hopes of snatching a few home victories. Instead, the College, drained from its near upset of No. 2 Creighton over the weekend, fell in an intense 2-1 overtime game Wednesday against visiting Elon.
The Tribe faced a formidable opponent, going head to head with a motivated Phoenix squad with a strong offense and plenty of fight. On this particular evening, the Phoenix proved too much for an exhausted Tribe squad.
“We just didn’t have it in that tank,” head coach Chris Norris said.
The game started off favorably for the Tribe. After a scoreless 35 minutes filled with a fair share of shoving and physical play from both sides, sophomore midfielder Chris Albiston drew first blood for the College with a 36th minute goal from 20 yards out.
Albiston’s shot itself was nearly perfect. The sophomore received the ball from junior midfielder Chris Perez, took careful aim and fired a left-footed shot that soared over the defense before bending sharply into the net. Elon goalie Nathan Dean had no chance at a save.
Norris was fully aware of the obstacle facing his team in preparing for Elon.
“We had a day of travel on Monday, and yesterday … we couldn’t get on the field because of the weather, so it wasn’t ideal in terms of preparation … we just didn’t adapt very well,” Norris said.
The goal proved to be the highlight of the Tribe’s offense, as Elon possessed the ball for much of the game and was consistently on the attack. The back line of the defense, one of the squad’s greatest strengths, performed admirably despite nearly constant pressure.
The defense also benefited from a strong performance by sophomore goalkeeper Bennett Jones, who finished with six saves and helped keep Elon scoreless for the entire first half with a series of heroic stops.
The game clearly began to shift in Elon’s favor by the second half. After an hour of aggressive offense, the Phoenix finally broke through — quite literally — when forward Chris Thomas sliced through the Tribe defense to force a breakaway goal past Jones and equalize the score at 1-1.
“It was just kind of a breakdown on a counter attack … [Thomas] just ran behind us,” junior defender Will Smith said.
The tie game was hotly contested in the final minutes of regulation. After playing somewhat passively on offense for much of the contest, the Tribe generated multiple scoring opportunities in the final few minutes. Freshman forward Jackson Eskay had two of his five shots come in the final three minutes of regulation time, but Elon’s tenacious defense turned away each Tribe chance to force overtime.
The Tribe stayed on the offensive in the extra period, generating two more shots in the first few minutes and giving hope to a spirited crowd. However, Elon had the last word when Thomas drew a penalty in front of the goal in the 96th minute. Thomas, a six-foot force who challenged the Tribe all game with four shots on goal, drilled the penalty kick past Jones to end the game and hand the Tribe a heartbreaking fourth loss.
The loss came at a challenging time for the Tribe, who followed their taxing trip to Omaha last weekend with this physical contest at home, with no time practice time in between.
Smith was less willing to blame the loss on the circumstances his team faced Wednesday.
“We had a couple days back here, I think everyone felt fresh. I just don’t think we came out with the right mindset, and that was the difference,” Smith said.
The Tribe will hope to rediscover their winning mindset when they open CAA play Saturday at home against Northeastern.