Ella Bonner wasn’t ready to celebrate her first college goal, mostly because she wasn’t trying to shoot the ball on the play.
“It was more of a cross, but it went in the goal,” Bonner, a freshman defender-midfielder, said almost apologetically after she collected a poor clearance attempt and volleyed it goalward.
The turn of events settled the Wolfpack into an offensive rhythm, and redshirt junior Alexa Allen added a second-half goal for a 2-0 victory Thursday night over visiting Elon at Dail Soccer Field in N.C. State’s home opener.
With the win, the Wolfpack (1-2) beat the Phoenix (1-1), picked eighth in the Colonial Athletic Association, for the 13th time in as many meetings.
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N.C. State coach Tim Santoro thought his club overcame some sloppy play coming off two one-goal losses last weekend on the West Coast.
“After the travel, I thought we might be a little heavy-legged,” said Santoro, who utilized 19 players in an effort to try a variety of combinations and keep fresh players on the field with the lead. “We actually played better on the West Coast, but it’s a win and a shutout.”
Both of those results were in short supply last year when the Wolfpack went 2-15-2 and winless (0-10) in the ACC. Santoro hopes to improve those numbers, and a six-player freshman class figures to help team depth.
Four freshmen, including Bonner, were in the starting lineup, and another saw extensive time off the bench. Freshman defender Hannah Keogh was the only player, other than goalkeeper Mackenzie Stelljes, to log all 90 minutes, and she figured in both goals.
Freshman defender Hannah Keogh and goalkeeper Mackenzie Stelljes logged all 90 minutes, and Keogh figured in both goals.
Bonner’s goal came after a Keogh free kick from midfield. An Elon defender headed it away, but right to Bonner, whose volley from the right side of the penalty arc eluded the outstretched arms of Phoenix goalkeeper Hanna Macaulay.
Keogh was credited with an assist on Allen’s goal in the 75th minute, when she picked off a clearing pass after a Wolfpack corner kick and found fellow freshman Taylor Porter in the penalty area. Porter crossed to Allen, and the Jamaica national team player chipped Macaulay for a 2-0 lead.
We have the potential to be a very good attacking team. We have a lot of combinations that work.
Tim Santoro, N.C. State women’s soccer coach
“We have the potential to be a very good attacking team,” Santoro said. “We have a lot of combinations that work.”
Although the Wolfpack outshot the Phoenix 10-7, Stelljes was surprisingly busy in net, making five saves. Twice she came up with big stops in the final five minutes on close-range attempts by Alex Hamer and Taylor Glenn. Macaulay finished with two saves for Elon.
However, Santoro said he will give goalkeeper Sydney Wootten, the only Wolfpack freshman who did not play Thursday night, her second start Sunday when N.C. State visits East Tennessee State.
“The plan is I have two great keepers, and they deserve the time,” Santoro said. “It’s a pretty good problem to have.”