GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — The East Carolina University women’s basektball team finished last season with a disappointing 9-21 overall record. This year, despite the ongoing pandemic, second-year Pirate head coach Kim McNeill is excited for her team.

As for the virus, it’s just an additional challenge everyone is working to overcome.

“I do understand there is a lot going on in the world, but out motto is that we do not have excuses,” McNeill said. “I have high hopes for this team this year with a lot of veterans coming back and adding kids from freshmen to transfers that I really feel like could contribute.”

The Pirates return nearly 90% of their squad from last season, including six experienced seniors.

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Among those returning players is point guard Lashonda Monk, who earned preseason first-team all-conference honors. The senior shined on the hardwood last year, locking her name in the history book as the Pirate’s first-ever all-conference Defensive Player of the Year.

But, that’s not enough. Monk’s goal is to step up her game even more.

“My goal is to do better. Coach says I can give more, so that is what I am working to do,” Monk said.

New this year are four freshman and a transfer, who add much needed depth to the team.

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“I think we look a lot different from last year,” said McNeill. “I do feel like we have more talent. We have more depth to be able to do more that what we did last year.”

The freshmen have a lot to live up to this season following Taniyah Thompson’s stellar first-year campaign where she earned herself all-conference recognition.

“I look forward to being able to play more people this year and to having more people with double figures,” McNeill said. “I think we are talented enough where we could have four or five people averaging double figures.”

From freshmen to graduate students, the Pirates are building towards greatness in Greenville. They are working day-in and day-out through any challenge they are tasked.

“I love these girls. They may not think it all the time, but I really do,” McNeill said.

The ladies gear up to hit the road and head to Towson for their season opener on November 25. It will be the first game of their opening two-game road slate.

McNeill said gone are the days of having an easy non-conference schedule. This year’s schedule was created to best prepare the women for when conference play rolls around.