TULSA, OKLA. – After falling behind twice, the East Carolina soccer team battled back each time to salvage a 2-2 draw at Tulsa on Sunday afternoon.
“Overall, that is a disappointing game for our group,” said head coach Jason Hamilton. “Tulsa outworked us, and we probably didn’t even deserve a tie when it was all said and done.”
East Carolina is now 7-7-2 on the season with a 2-2-2 AAC mark while Tulsa is 6-7-2 overall with a 1-4-1 league mark.
The Pirates fell behind in just the fifth minute. An East Carolina turnover just outside the Pirate penalty area had ECU scrambling to cover. The Golden Hurricane shifted the ball to Mia Darden at the top of the box and she was able to curl in a shot that caught the left post and went in for the opening goal.
East Carolina answered back in the 19th minute with a goal very similar to Tulsa’s. Off a Golden Hurricane throw-in deep in its own defensive zone, the Pirates put Tulsa under pressure. That defensive pressure led to Tori Riggs picking off a pass and sending it to Haley McWhirter who was charging in from the halfway line. McWhirter received the pass 25 yards out and took a low-flying shot that beat Tulsa goalkeeper Emma Malsy to tie the game.
Unfortunately for East Carolina, Tulsa regained the lead early in the second stanza. In the 56th minute, a Pirate foul gave the Golden Hurricane a free kick on the left wing. Tulsa swung a cross into the East Carolina box and Emily Brandenburg was able to rise up and head into the far post.
Once again, the Pirates had an answer for the Golden Hurricane. In the 74th minute, the Pirates forced a turnover, this one in its own defensive zone. Grace Doran was the Pirate who pounced on the ball and she quickly passed it forward to Annabelle Abbott. Abbott in turn found McWhirter just inside the halfway line and McWhirter played a one-touch pass that sprung Riggs into space behind the Tulsa defense. Riggs raced in on goal and she calmly slotted past an onrushing Malsy.
The game remained level through the end of regulation, sending the teams to overtime. It was the sixth overtime game of the season for the Pirates.
In the first overtime period, both teams struggled to put shots on goal. The Golden Hurricane took four shots, three of which missed the goal frame while Maeve English made a save on the fourth. The Pirates had a pair of shots blocked and one sail wide. In the second overtime, the Pirates were the aggressor, taking four shots, including one from Morgan Dewey that required a save from Malsy. But East Carolina could not find the game-winning goal, with the final whistle signaling a draw.
“Our work rate and execution were not where they needed to be to get to get a win,” Hamilton said. “We talked about some things at halftime as well as at the end of regulation, unfortunately, we didn’t adjust to the things we talked about.”
East Carolina finished with a 20-16 lead in shots and an 8-4 edge in corner kicks. The Pirates six shots on goal compared to five for the Golden Hurricane and held 51% of the game’s possession.
“This is a good lesson for the younger ones in our group,” Hamilton added. “We have to be consistent, that’s what the best teams do. They find a way to play their best game in and game out regardless of the opponent. This was not one of our better games this season.”
The Pirates will return home for the start of a two-game homestand to close out the regular season. First up will be a matchup against UCF on Thursday night in Johnson Stadium.