MEMPHIS, TENN. – An early goal was the only scoring of the day as the East Carolina soccer team fell to No. 19 Memphis 1-0 on Sunday afternoon.
“Tons of credit to Memphis, they are a very good team and deserved the win on the day,” said head coach Jason Hamilton. “I thought we were much more competitive in the second half, we just weren’t able to produce much offensively.”
ECU finishes the regular season with a 3-5-2 overall record and a 3-3-2 mark in the AAC. ECU is guaranteed to finish at least fifth in the AAC standings, just the second time that ECU has placed that high. The Pirates were tied for fourth in the 2018 campaign. Memphis improves to 8-2-0 overall with a 6-1-0 league mark that earned the Tigers the No. 2 seed in the upcoming AAC Championship.
“What makes it tough now is we have to wait and see what happens in the last game of the day to find out our fate,” Hamilton said. “That is tough on everyone right now.”
Memphis came into the game allowing just 0.89 goals per game, which ranks third in the AAC, and that defense made things difficult for the Pirate offense. ECU did have a shot early on, after a Memphis foul in the fourth minute. The initial free kick was deflected off the Memphis wall and reached Maycie McDougal who had a shot from long range, but Elizabeth Moberg was able to comfortably make the save for Memphis.
After nearly 10 minutes without a shot by either team, Memphis got its first chance of the game and made it count. Caroline Duncan played a pass forward to Clarissa Larisey who sped into the right side of the ECU box. Larisey laced a shot while on the run that curled between a diving Maeve English and the top right corner of the goal to open the scoring.
Larisey nearly got her second goal of the game in the 25th minute. Larisey again got free in the ECU box and took a shot that looked like it was heading into the bottom right corner. But English got down quickly and was able to palm it away for a Memphis corner kick.
After heading into halftime still trailing 1-0, the Pirates came back out needing a goal to level the score. But the Memphis defense was again difficult to break down. The Pirates could not get any good looks at the Tiger goal and had just two corner kicks in the second half.
On the other end, the ECU defense prevented Memphis from adding to its lead. The Tigers took 13 shots in the second half, but just two of them were on goal. English was called upon to make her second save of the game in the 77th minute when Saorla Miller had a shot on frame and the Pirate defense blocked a potential goal in the 85th minute.
Despite those efforts to keep the game within reach and with ECU pushing forward at the end of the game, the game-tying goal never materialized, leaving Memphis to take the 1-0 victory.
Memphis finished with a 16-1 edge in shots and 7-3 lead in corner kicks. English made two saves for the Pirates while Moberg had the one stop for the Tigers.
“At the end of the day, whether we finish in fourth place or fifth place, it will still be one of the top two finishes this program has ever had in the American,” Hamilton added. “The seniors can walk away saying that they were a part of both of the teams that had those two best finishes and should be proud of that.”
The Pirates will await their postseason fate which will be decided by the Houston at Memphis game which has been delayed to later on Sunday afternoon. With a Houston win or a draw, the Pirates would earn the fourth seed and take on top seed USF in the AAC Championship Semifinals on Thursday. A UCF win would end the Pirates season due to UCF earning more points per conference game.
“Competing in the top half of the conference is what I said I wanted to do when I came to ECU and the fact that we have been able to this early is a great sign for the future of our program,” Hamilton finished.