GREENVILLE, N.C. – A flurry of second-half goals propelled the East Carolina soccer team to a 4-0 win over visiting VMI on Sunday afternoon.
“You’re always going to be happy with a win,” said Head Soccer Coach Jason Hamilton. “I just think we got a little bit of a slow start. 6-1 in shots in the first half, we had the ball a lot but we just weren’t creating the opportunities. I think we were settling a little bit, we just kind of veered away from our game plan a little bit. We had a conversation at halftime and I think they came out a little stronger in the second half. That last 45 minutes was much better. I think the team, they know what they’re capable of and that second half really showed it.”
The Pirates improve to 1-1-0 on the season while the Keydets fall to 0-2-0.
East Carolina dominated everywhere in the first half except on the scoresheet. The Pirates held a whopping 69% of the possession in the opening 45 minutes and outshot VMI 6-1. Tori Riggs nearly scored for the Pirates just 45 seconds into the match, directing a header just wide of the VMI goalpost. Haley McWhirter had a pair of shots saved by VMI goalkeeper Jillian Hall and Abby Sowa put a header of her own just over the crossbar. However, East Carolina could not get the breakthrough and went into the locker room at halftime still tied at 0-0.
In the second half, the Pirates continued to apply pressure, but it was VMI who nearly broke the tie first. A corner kick in the 50th minute found Sam Fee who put a header just over the crossbar.
The breakthrough finally came in the 55th minute. Holly Schlagel won a loose ball and found Haley McWhirter near the top of the VMI box. McWhirter surged into the penalty area with the ball on her right foot and took a low shot across her body that found the bottom left corner of the Keydet goal. It was the first collegiate goal for McWhirter and the first assist for Schlagel, although the pairing did connect for a goal in the opening exhibition at Longwood.
The Pirates put the game away with a pair of goals in quick succession. First, in the 68th minute, Sierra Lowery floated a pass over the VMI defense for Samantha Moxie to run onto. Moxie ran into the penalty area and beat the VMI goalkeeper with a low shot to score her first ECU goal. Then, less than two minutes later, Grace Doran and Moxie played a great give-and-go, with Doran racing in and scoring. It was both the first goal and assist of Moxie’s Pirate career while Doran picked up her third career goal against the Keydets, having scored twice in a 3-0 win in 2019.
“Haley’s a great player, she had a couple of goals in the exhibitions and created a goal for us in the exhibitions and in the first game. She’s just a good attacking player,” Hamilton said. “Sam had a little bit of a slow start to preseason so she’s just now catching up fitness-wise. They’re both just great players that are good around the goal so we’re happy to get those young players goals and hopefully, that will get them going.”
The Pirates put a capper on the night with a long-range effort from Brooke Burzynski. The sophomore found space more than 20-yards from the VMI goal and tried her luck with a booming shot. The VMI goalkeeper tried to recover and make a save on the ball, but it sailed over her head for the first collegiate goal for Burzynski.
ECU finished with a dominant 19-3 edge in shots and 59% of the possession. The Pirates took three corners to two for VMI. Maeve English played the first 80:51 in goal for the Pirates, making one save. Meaghan Haley replaced her for the final 9:09 and preserved the shutout.
East Carolina will be back in Johnson Stadium to take on nationally-ranked South Carolina on Thursday night. Kickoff for that contest is scheduled for 7:05 p.m., and will be broadcast on ESPN+.