GREENVILLE, N.C. – A dominant second-half performance saw the East Carolina soccer team close out the preseason slate with a 3-0 win over visiting UNCW on Saturday afternoon.
“Unlike last year, this opportunity to have exhibition games is exactly what we needed,” said Head Soccer Coach Jason Hamilton. “We’ve got a lot of new faces and a lot of younger players who didn’t get the opportunity to play last year because we rolled right into conference play. This has been great, to use as many players as we have over the first two games. We’ve gotten to see a lot of things.”
The Seahawks had the advantage in the first half, outshooting the Pirates 7-3 and holding 57% of the possession. Maeve English made sure that the game remained level though, making four stops in the opening 45 minutes. On the other end, ECU nearly took the lead when Samantha Moxie got free in the UNCW box, but Blair Barefoot made a save of her own to deny Moxie.
The Pirates finally broke the deadlock just over 10 minutes into the second stanza. A pass sprung Haley McWhirter free and the freshman midfielder ran towards goal with just Barefoot in her way. McWhirter tried a shot, but Barefoot was able to deflect the effort. However, Moxie pounced on the rebound and was able to tuck it into the empty net to open the scoring.
Just three minutes later, East Carolina doubled its advantage. The chance again came from a through ball. This time it was a pass from Holly Schlagel that sent Tori Riggs charging through on goal. Riggs clipped a shot over new UNCW goalkeeper Kaylie Bierman and into the goal for her first tally of the preseason.
The final goal of the day came in the 70th minute. After a scramble at the edge of the UNCW box, Grace Doran was finally able to corral the loose ball. She lined up a shot from the left side and curled a long range effort into the top right corner of the goal to make it 3-0.
“Obviously it was great to be back at Johnson Stadium,” Hamilton added. “I thought the second half, we really came out and had a little bit more pride in being on our home field. These first two games have been great for all of the girls to get out there and get some minutes and prepare us for what’s coming.”
UNCW finished with a slight 12-11 edge in shots and a 9-1 advantage in corner kicks, as well as holding 56% of possession. English played the first 72:33 in goal for East Carolina, making six saves. Maggie Leland relieved English for the final 17:27 and made one stop to preserve the shutout.
The Pirates will open the season on the road as they head to Old Dominion on Thursday. Kickoff for the season-opener is slated for 7 p.m., at ODU Soccer Complex.