GREENVILLE, N.C. – For just the second time this season, the East Carolina soccer team lost a home match, falling to No. 17 SMU 2-0 on Thursday night in Johnson Stadium.
East Carolina falls to 4-7-0 on the season with an 0-2-0 AAC record while SMU improves to 7-1-0 with a 1-0-0 record in conference.
“To be honest, we didn’t really do what we needed to do in that first half,” said head coach Jason Hamilton. “We didn’t come out and execute and it really was effort stuff. To be honest, I think we were a little bit slow to do things, we weren’t really putting them under the pressure that we wanted to put them under and they’re a good team so they’re going to settle in. If you don’t put them under pressure, they’re going to connect passes and I think that was what really happened. Exactly what we expected.
“They didn’t create a ton of chances, but they’re efficient in front of the goal and that’s why they’re winning games. But we just didn’t go a good enough job of getting pressure on them and making the game hard.”
The Pirates took the first three shots of the game, but the Mustangs scored on their first attempt of the day to take an early lead. In the 21st minute, Lindsey Whitmore broke free down the right wing and squared a cross through the ECU penalty area. Whitmore’s pass went all the way to the back post where Courtney Sebazco was waiting and she tucked a low shot inside the right goalpost.
Sebazco’s goal stood as the only tally of the opening half and SMU did not take long after the halftime break to double its lead. In the 49th minute, it was once again a low cross that proved to be East Carolina’s undoing. This time it was Katina Tsapos playing the cross from the right side and Whitmore playing receiver as she was waiting on the back post and was able to tuck the cross home.
Trailing by those two goals, the Pirates began to up the pressure as they tried to get back into the game. The breakthrough nearly came in the 71st minute when Annabelle Abbott found space at the top of the SMU box and curled a shot towards the right side of the Mustang goal, but her effort crashed off the crossbar and bounced out.
The chances continued, with Holly Schlagel playing Haley McWhirter in on goal in the 76tg minute and Abbott also finding space in the box in the 83rd minute, but Mustang goalkeeper Tatum Sutherland was there to make saves on both efforts. The last opportunity for ECU came in the 86th minute when Samantha Moxie volleyed a shot that seemed destined for the bottom left corner of the SMU goal, but Sutherland was able to dive and deny Moxie’s shot.
“Unfortunately, it took getting scored on twice to wake us up and dig deep and do what we actually need to do,” Hamilton added. “I think we’ve got to find some kind of a positive because we’re just in a tough streak here. But we ended the game with five freshmen on the field and two or three sophomores and those sophomores have three years left so a quarter of this team is going to be together for three years. They’ve just got to come out and find a way to play that way for 90 minutes and not once their backs are up against the wall because once we turned it on and started to play, it looked a lot better. It looked like it was supposed as far as what we had planned.”
East Carolina finished with a 20-13 advantage in shots, including 8-7 in shots on goal while SMU had a 4-3 edge in corner kicks. Each team had possession of the ball for 50% of the game. Maeve English finished with four saves for the Pirates while Sutherland made eight stops for the Mustangs.
The Pirates will have a week off before returning to the field. East Carolina will next head to Cincinnati for a match on Thursday, Sept. 30.