Tournament Most Outstanding Player Gabe Latigue scored on a direct free kick for the game-winner in the 75th minute as top-seeded Elon downed No. 7 seed Wofford 2-1 in the Southern Conference Men’s Soccer Championship title game at
WakeMed Soccer Park on Saturday night. With its second straight title, the 23rd-ranked Phoenix claimed the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship.
Elon (15-4-2) will learn its postseason fate Monday, as the NCAA selection show can be viewed at NCAA.com at 5:30 p.m. With the teams deadlocked 1 late in the contest, Wofford (10-9-2) committed a foul a couple of yards outside the 18-yard box, giving Elon a free kick. Latigue lined up over the ball and sent a rocket into the upper left corner to put the Phoenix ahead to stay. The Phoenix had played with the lead for most of the contest to that point after Matt Wescoe’s ninth-minute strike.
Defender Matt Berlin got the play started in the midfield, sending a pass out to the right wing for Jason Waterman. Waterman then lofted a cross into the box, where Wescoe rose up above the crowd and flicked it home into the bottom left corner of the net past a diving Andrew Drennan to put Elon ahead 1-0. That’s where the score would stay until midway through the second half.
The Terriers finally found the equalizer in the 71st minute, with sophomore Ellis Vienne nodding home an Ethan Miller corner kick in a congested box to pull Wofford level and seemingly swing momentum to the Terriers’ favor. The Phoenix regrouped quickly, however, with Latigue’s precision strike putting Elon ahead for good just 4:11 later. Both sides had other solid chances throughout but couldn’t put them away.
Wofford’s Ryan Hurst had a nice chance in the 35th minute, sending his blast from the top left corner of the 18-yard box wide past the far post. Elon’s Wescoe nearly made it a 2-0 game in the 45th minute, looping a long-range shot into the box that Drennan was able to push just over the crossbar. The Phoenix scrambled to get the corner off before the half ended and Samuel McBride got a head on it, but a Wofford defender cleared the shot away as time expired. At the start of the second half, Berlin crossed the ball into the box and Waterman was there for the shot, but a Wofford defender cleared it away to keep it a one-goal game.
Moments after Vienne’s goal, the Terriers nearly pulled ahead as he sent a well-placed ball into the box from the left wing. Alex Hutchins came streaking in and made a sliding attempt on it but just missed as the score remained tied. The contest was a rematch of the 2009 title match, which Wofford won 2-1 in Spartanburg, S.C. Elon also avenged a 4-3, overtime loss to the Terriers on Oct. 9 of this season. Latigue was joined on the SoCon All-Tournament Team by teammates Wescoe, Daniel Lovitz and Chris Thomas. Wofford’s Drennan, Vienne and Taylor Grim also earned spots on the team, as did Boubacar Toure and Lee Williams from Appalachian State and Chase Park and Thomas Valikonis from Georgia Southern.
2012 Southern Conference Men’s Soccer Championship
Boubacar Toure, Appalachian State
Lee Williams, Appalachian State
Chase Park, Georgia Southern
Thomas Valikonis, Georgia Southern
Andrew Drennan, Wofford
Taylor Grim, Wofford
Ellis Vienne, Wofford
Gabe Latigue, ElonDaniel Lovitz, Elon
Chris Thomas, Elon
Matt Wescoe, Elon
Most Outstanding Player
Gabe Latigue, Elon
Photo Courtesy: Elon Celebrate Title, SoCon Athletics