Chris Thomas, a senior forward on the Elon University men’s soccer team, had 10 goals last season. His junior year was an exercise in patience, with injuries marring an otherwise fantastic campaign. Thomas played in all 22 games, although he only started in 10 of them, and was named Southern Conference Player of the Week twice. Had he stayed healthy, he could’ve ranked among the top goal scorers in the country.
Now a senior, Thomas has scored six goals in just five games, a torrid pace that ranks him among the leading goal scorers thus far in Div. I soccer. It’s an honor that Thomas said wouldn’t be possible without staying healthy.
“I came off a knee injury last year and never really tried to work hard and get back to full strength,” Thomas said. “This summer I just focused on strengthening my muscles so I wouldn’t have any injury problems.”
Fitness had been his focus. “That’s what my coaches told me I needed to work on. All offseason (I) worked on fitness and finishing,” Thomas said.
His hard work has clearly paid off. Thomas has scored at least one goal in all five of Elon’s games, including two goals apiece in last weekend’s Lipscomb Tournament in Nashville, Tenn., where the Phoenix played host Lipscomb University and Belmont University. His performance was good enough to earn him the SoCon Player of the Week award, his first such award this year.
Thomas is proud of his accomplishment, but insists it’s nothing more than a promising start to an important season.
“(Winning the award) means a lot,” Thomas said. “It means people recognize what I’m doing, but that’s just a small accomplishment. Individually, I want to achieve more than that. Team wise, I want to accomplish a lot more than that. So that’s just a small mark on the resume.”
Thomas’ hot start has given him newfound confidence, a confidence he carries with him onto the field.
“I always try to go into the game to want to score a goal,” Thomas said. “If I don’t score a goal, I feel like I let the team down, especially if we lose.”
According to assistant coach Chris Little, Thomas’ success isn’t surprising, especially to his coaches.
“Certainly (I saw this coming), Chris is a very, very talented player,” Little said. “He was freshman of the year, he’s been player of the year in the SoCon. You don’t win those awards unless you’re a talented player.”
Little insists Thomas’ struggles were the product of a frustratingly inconsistent junior year.
“He’s had talent. He had a rough year last year, coming off a knee injury, it was a difficult year for him,” Little said. “I think what’s great about Chris is he’s showing his character. To get fit, to work hard at his game and he’s reaping the benefits of that right now and we’re delighted for him.”
Little doesn’t see any reason to suggest Thomas’ production will tank as the season progresses.
“I think he can continue his production. Chris is a talented player,” Little said. “He’s working very hard at his game. He has aspirations to be a professional player, so we’re working with him every day. He’s very coachable, he’s working extremely hard at it and we think it’ll continue. Hopefully, he catches those breaks. Right now, he’s leading the nation in goals and there’s nothing we’d like more than for him to be leading the nation at the end of the year.”
Chris Thomas is, for now, one of the nation’s elite goal scorers. He may not be player of the year yet, but Thomas certainly has his eyes set on the prize.