GREENVILLE, N.C. – Goals on either side of the halftime break were the difference as the East Carolina soccer team fell to visiting UCF 2-0 on Thursday evening in Johnson Stadium.
“I thought we played very good tonight and were unlucky not to score a goal,” said head coach Jason Hamilton. “We had a lot of really good looks, we hit the crossbar and hit the post. Just did not get any bounces to fall for us.”
East Carolina falls to 7-8-2- on the season with a 2-3-2 league mark while UCF is 7-6-1 overall and 2-3-1 in the AAC.
Both teams started the game trying to feel each other out, with Maeve English making a pair of saves on early UCF efforts while Tori Riggs nearly snuck a shot inside the goalpost, but Caroline DeLisle was there to make a save for UCF.
Unfortunately for the Pirates, the Knights got on the scoreboard in the 35th minute. After a UCF corner was cleared by the Pirates, it reached as far as Madison Murnin at the top of the box. Murnin swung a cross back into the penalty area and Ariel Young was there waiting on the back post to head it home.
The Knights took their 1-0 lead into the halftime break and it did not take long for them to double that lead. Just two minutes into the second stanza, Marta Estupinan lined up a shot at the top of the ECU box, but it was blocked by a Pirate defender. The ball bounced around as both teams tried to gain possession, but it finally fell to Katie Bradley who was able to score on a low shot.
“On the other end, the goals we gave up are very avoidable,” Hamilton said. “Some missed marks and a couple of errors led to two pretty easy chances for them and they took advantage of it.”
Trailing and needing to get back into the game, the Pirates began to press forward. It looked like they had gotten on the board in the 62nd minute when Haley McWhirter took a long-range shot. McWhirter’s effort had a diving DeLisle beat, but the ball clipped the right goalpost and bounced out.
The Pirate continued pressuring, but DeLisle made three stops over the next ten minutes. Another great opportunity came in the 75th minute when Samantha Moxie broke behind the UCF defense and ran in on DeLisle’s goal. Like McWhirter, Moxie slammed her shot against the frame of the goal, this time hitting the crossbar.
The final great chance of the game came in the 84th minute. A UCF foul set ECU up for a free kick 25 yards away from goal. Morgan Dewey lined up the free kick and tried her luck with a left-footed shot, but it went just over the crossbar.
East Carolina finished with a 16-7 edge in shots while both teams took three corner kicks and each held 50% of the game’s possession. English made three saves for the Pirates with DeLisle making seven stops for the Knights.
“Now our back is against the wall and we have work to do on Sunday,” Hamilton finished. “The good news is we are at home and it is our senior day so we have to ride that wave of emotion and play our hearts out for our seniors in order to extend their college careers.”
The Pirates will close out the regular season on Sunday afternoon when they host Memphis at 12:05 p.m. in Johnson Stadium. It will be Senior Day for East Carolina and the Pirates will have a ceremony honoring the team’s seven seniors prior to the match.