With less than three minutes remaining, UNCG midfielder Gabi Santora converted an unassisted, game-winning goal in the 88th minute to give the Spartans a 4-3 victory over Elon and their first home win of the season on Thursday night.
However, the UNCG win was not an easy one; this was a hard-fought game on both sides. The first period started slowly. Things began to kick in for the Spartans when forward Cienna Rideout scored in the 20th minute. The energy soon picked up for Elon when Kara Kimberl found the back of the net in the 34th minute, tying the game 1-1.
Minutes later, UNCG responded again with yet another goal, scored by Santora. This would give UNCG a 2-1 lead to conclude the first period.
The battle intensified as the game went on, especially to start the second half. Minutes into the second, Elon tied things up once again, 2-2. Only seconds later the Spartans responded with a goal by Isbaelle Bloomdahl. This score would put UNCG back in front with a 3-2 lead.
UNCG continued to execute offensively with multiple corner kicks and goals, but Elon refused to let up. Just minutes after UNCG’s goal, Elon’s Jessica Carrieri would score, tying the game once again. At this point, the game was tied 3-3 and intensity filled the stadium. Everyone was on the edge of their seats, anticipating the continuation of this battle.
Yes, the battle continued. There was a lot of offensive action from both teams most of the night, but the defense was intense as well. Both teams applied pressure: shots were blocked, goals were saved, and the energy was magnified. No one allowed the other to capitalize on a shot.
It wasn’t until the 88th minute when Santora created separation right outside the goal and delivered a powerful shot, which would put UNCG back on top once again. The Spartans now led the Phoenix 4-3. With two minutes remaining on the clock, Elon tried to get things going offensively.
Despite Elon’s determination, UNCG was able to neutralize those efforts by pressuring Elon’s offense in the last two minutes to walk away with the win.
After the game, the Carolinian was able to catch up with UNCG’s Head Coach Michael Coll.
Coach talked about some adjustments his team made coming of that first half. “Our halftime talk was about being more aggressive and getting more speed in our front-line as well as goal scoring-areas”, he said.
The Spartans did just that. They were aggressive offensively and defensively. UNCG had twice as many shots as the Phoenix.
Neither team refused to give up in the second half, but UNCG outlasted Elon long enough to get the win. When asked about what made this possible, Coach Coll gave credit to Gabi Santora. “The kid is such a good shooter and she just hit it. It was just Gabi grabbing the game and saying ‘I like what I see and I am going to hit this.’”
The freshman midfielder scored the go-ahead goal late in the second half to give UNCG the lead and the win 4-3.
UNCG is coming off a strong 6-0 road win against Gardner-Webb, but this home win meant more. Coll explained that getting a win at home was a focal point entering the game. “We owe our friends and families a win,” said Coach Coll. “It feels amazing, but it was absolutely necessary because we could not accept anything else.”
The Spartans will remain at home for the next few games and the mindset is to keep the winning streak going.
“The mindset will be for us to be aggressive… being aggressive on defense by covering our teammates, sprinting to cover at all times. We want to win, we know we have the ability. We had four, five non-winning games to start the season.”
The Spartans’ win against Elon secured them their second straight win and first home victory of the season.