ECU’s McWhirter, Sanford earn AAC postseason honors

ECU Pirates

Haley McWhirter and Kim Sanford (ECU Sports Information photo)

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GREENVILLE, N.C. – After outstanding seasons, Haley McWhirter and Kim Sanford of the East Carolina soccer team earned postseason honors, including McWhirter becoming the first player in East Carolina history to be named the AAC Rookie of the Year.

Along with being named the AAC Rookie of the Year, McWhirter was a unanimous selection to the AAC All-Rookie Team and earned a spot on the All-Conference Second-Team. Sanford joined McWhirter on the All-Conference Second-Team.

“Haley is part of a very good freshman class and had a great first year for us, which we anticipated she would when we recruited her,” said head coach Jason Hamilton. “She really found her stride as we got in to conference play and scored some timely goals. She has a very bright future, and we feel she can have a very successful career in the AAC as our program continues to improve.”

McWhirter became just the fourth rookie to lead East Carolina in scoring, as she finished with six goals and one assist for 13 points. She was especially proficient in conference play, scoring five goals and recording 11 points, both of which led all players in the AAC. Her performances garnered McWhirter three straight AAC Rookie of the Week awards, just the second time a player has won the award in three consecutive weeks. McWhirter scored three game-winning goals on the year, grabbing the game-winner against VMI, against Houston in the 102nd minute and against Memphis in the 87th minute which eventually clinched a playoff spot for the Pirates.

McWhirter is not just the first player to win AAC Rookie of the Year, she is the first Rookie of the Year regardless of conference for East Carolina. She is the sixth player to earn a slot on the league’s All-Rookie team and she is the first player to earn AAC All-Conference honors in her freshman season. In terms of East Carolina history, the Magnolia, Texas native finished fourth in goals by a rookie (six) and fifth in points (13).

“Congratulations to Kim who has been a consistent conference recipient for our program,” Hamilton said. “She has had an amazing career here at ECU. She stuck with the program through tough times and helped us to become a program that continues to make progress in one of the strongest conferences in college soccer. A great leader and representative for ECU soccer.”

Sanford has been incredibly consistent throughout her Pirate career and her performances this year were no different. The Philadelphia, Pa., native started all 19 games this year and her 1,701 minutes played were the most by any ECU field player. Sanford became the East Carolina career leader in matches played with 84 career appearances, missing just one game due to a red card in the 2018 season. She is also tied for second with 80 career starts. Along with her duties in the center of the Pirate defense, Sanford also had one of her best offensive seasons. Sanford scored the game-winning goal in back-to-back games, as the Pirates beat Campbell and VCU. The goals as well as helping to shut out both the Camels and the Rams helped earn Sanford the AAC Defensive Player of the Week award, the third-such honor of her career.

It is the third straight season that Sanford has earned a spot on the AAC All-Conference Second-Team. Sanford becomes the first ECU player to earn three All-Conference honors in the AAC and the eighth to earn three in their career, joining Kim Sandhoff, Penny Perrott, Meghan McCallion, Kat Norris, Amber Campbell, Amanda Malkiewicz and Kendall Frey.

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