GREENVILLE, N.C. – After a pandemic-shortened season during the spring, the East Carolina soccer team will play a full schedule in the 2021 campaign, as announced by head coach Jason Hamilton on Wednesday.

“We have put together a very challenging schedule for the 2021 season,” said Hamilton. “We wanted to push ourselves in the nonconference schedule to help us prepare more for the AAC.”

The Pirates will play nine nonconference matches and an eight-game AAC slate. Included in the nonconference portion of the schedule will be three matches against teams that reached the 2020 NCAA Tournament (Duke, South Carolina, Campbell), rematches against 2020 opponents Old Dominion and VCU as well as a battle with Big South regular-season champion High Point.

“Some of the teams like VCU and Old Dominion we know we will get a tough game as always, then we’ve added Big South Conference champions High Point and Big South Tournament champions Campbell, who were both great this year,” Hamilton added. “South Carolina and Duke will be two bigger challenges that we haven’t seen since I’ve been here. It is always exciting to play teams like that.”

ECU will hit the field first for a pair of exhibition matches, at Longwood (Aug. 10) and in Johnson Stadium against UNCW (Aug. 14). The regular season will open with a trip to Old Dominion (Aug. 19) before the Pirates officially open their home slate against VMI (Aug. 22).

South Carolina will come to Greenville on Aug. 26, the first time the Gamecocks have played in Johnson Stadium since 2014. ECU will then travel to High Point on Aug. 29.

September will start with back-to-back home games against Campbell (Sept. 2) and VCU (Sept. 5). The Pirates will take on 2020 NCAA Tournament quarterfinalists Duke on Sept. 9 followed by a trip to William & Mary on Sept. 12.

East Carolina will begin AAC play on Sept. 16 with a trip to defending American champions USF. The Pirates will get a brief respite from league play with a trip to James Madison on Sept. 19 before diving back into AAC games.

SMU will come to Johnson Stadium on Sept. 23. The Pirates will have a week off before traveling to Cincinnati on Sept. 30. ECU will host Temple on Oct. 7 and head to Houston on Oct. 10. The final road trip of the season comes on Oct. 17 with a date at Tulsa.

The Pirates will close the regular season with a pair of home games. First is a matchup with UCF on Oct. 21 before closing the year against Memphis on Oct. 24.

“We have a great group that wants to play the best teams possible and be pushed,” Hamilton added. “So, we are excited to get things going.”

ECU is coming off a 3-6-2 season that saw the Pirates finish fourth in the AAC with a 3-3-2 league record and reach the AAC Championship for the second time in three seasons under Hamilton’s watch. East Carolina will bring back four players who earned postseason honors, with Carsen Parker and Kim Sanford both being named to the AAC All-Conference Second Team while Maeve English and Annabelle Abbott earned spots on the All-Rookie team. Along with those four, ECU will return players who accounted for 66.7% of its goals last season and 90% of the team’s assists, led by Parker’s four goals and three assists.