GREENVILLE, N.C. – Goals in both halves helped secure a come-from-behind victory for the East Carolina soccer team as the Pirates topped Temple 2-1 on Thursday night in Johnson Stadium.
“I think a tale of two halves,” said head coach Jason Hamilton. “I don’t think we played great. We gave up a goal on an error and I think we kind of felt sorry for ourselves in that first half and that was really the big thing. We just looked like we didn’t feel too good about ourselves for about a 20-minute stretch after that goal. Then we were able to get a goal late at the end of the first half and I think that really kind of regrouped them. They had some conversations on their own at halftime. We walked in and told them where we needed to be better and then it came out in the second half where I thought we were much better.”
East Carolina picks up its first AAC victory of the season and is now 6-7-1 overall with a 1-2-1 league record. Temple drops to 3-5-3 with a 1-3-0 conference ledger.
In the past two games, the Pirates had taken the lead within the first 15 minutes, but the shoe was on the other foot on Thursday as it was the Owls who struck first. In the 18th minute, Emily Kavanaugh was able to put the East Carolina defense under pressure and create a turnover just outside the Pirate box. Kavanaugh then went on the offensive and raced in to score, giving Temple a 1-0 lead.
Holding the lead, the Owls were content to let the Pirates bring the game to them. East Carolina struggled to create chances for most of the opening 45 minutes because of the Temple defense. That changed in the 42nd minute. Alexia Moore found space 30 yards out and let fly a long shot. Temple goalkeeper Kamryn Stablein looked to be beat, but she was able to leap back and get just enough of a touch on the shot to deflect it off the crossbar. The pressure did not end from the Pirates and a minute later, the ball was shuttled out to the left wing where Morgan Dewey drove into the Owl box. She squared a cross to the penalty spot where Samantha Moxie was waiting. Moxie took one touch to set herself up and then calmly slotted home the tying goal.
Moxie’s goal gave the Pirates a huge lift coming out of the locker room for the second half and it looked to be just a matter of time until the second goal arrived. Over the first 20 minutes, East Carolina took nine shots compared to one for Temple and the Pirates also had corner kicks.
The breakthrough came in the 68th minute and it again came from the left wing. A pass released Sydney Schnell, who was making season debut, down the left wing. Schnell cut inside a Temple defender and onto her right foot. Like Dewey, Schnell squared a pass to the penalty spot. Like Moxie, Tori Riggs was there waiting and she opened up and tucked her shot into the side netting.
ECU could have found a third, with Holly Schlagel curling a pair of shots just over the crossbar and Kim Sanford hit the post on a header. While the third goal did not arrive, that offensive pressure prevented Temple from mounting any chances of its own and the Pirates were able to see out the victory.
“We really talked with our group about knowing where they’re at,” Hamilton said. “Our strength of schedule is 35th in the country. We had some big wins over teams that are in first place in their conference. Letting them know they’re prepared. Everything they’ve done is to put them in a place to be ready for what’s in front of them. We’ve been in this place before where we need to win on the final stretch to make the conference tournament. We got that tie on the road, a win at home in the nonconference, that’s contagious. Winning is contagious, losing is contagious. I think they’re feeling that where hey we’ve just got to come out and we’ve got to compete because we’re doing the right things.”
East Carolina finished with a 20-6 edge in shots and a 10-1 lead in corner kicks. The Pirates had 66% of the possession and had six shots on target compared to five for the Owls. Maeve English made four saves for East Carolina while Stablein had four stops of her own for Temple.
The Pirates will try to make it three straight victories when they head to Houston for a Sunday matinee. That match will kickoff at 1 p.m.