GREENVILLE, N.C. – The East Carolina soccer team pushed their unbeaten streak to four with a 2-0 win over UNCW on Thursday in Johnson Stadium. Sydney Schnell scored early, Ella Steck scored late, and Maeve English made a pair of unreal saves to propel the Pirates to victory.
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As was the case a game ago, the Pirates came out of the gate firing on all cylinders. It took only until the fourth minute when UNCW made a risky pass back to their keeper – first mistake. The Seahawks forgot about the speed of Samantha Moxie. The Pirate’s game-breaking forward made an all-out sprint to challenge for the ball and force a sloppy pass which Schnell intercepted. With the keeper out of her net and no defenders in sight, the senior made no mess of it and fired the shot comfortably home for the opening score.
Then, it was as if ECU relaxed. The Pirates sat back, perhaps complacent, and UNCW was able to play on the front foot for long stretches of the rest of the game. Twice, it almost cost the home team. Twice, their hometown hero in goal made stops to save the day.
First, in the 12th minute, a mishandled pass by Jazmin Ferguson put Wilmington’s Ayla Vaneus one-on-one with English, but quick hands turned back the shot for it to be cleared away.
The second save was perhaps more stunning. On a UNCW cross in the 39th minute, Mackenna Gardner took a headed shot which caromed off the crossbar and down to the waiting foot of Issy Bryant. English, who had fallen back into the net making an attempt at the first shot was somehow able to recover and make a leaping effort to get her left hand on a shot destined for the back of the net. The ball went out for a corner and the Pirates cleared the danger.
The game continued like that, with UNCW pushing forward trying to create chances and the Pirates trying to counter and get the goal to put it away, for most of the second half. The Seahawks pressed hard and were able to get the ball in dangerous areas but never found another shot as dangerous as Bryant’s.
The bad thing about pushing players forward like the Seahawks did in the second half is that you run the risk of getting caught out of position. It almost came back to bite them several times, but they finally paid the price in the 88th minute when Mackenna Gregory made a clean header to Steck who already had several steps clear of the defender meant to be marking her. UNCW keeper Hanna wise came out to try to challenge but Steck juked her out of her boots and calmly punched the ball into the goal to seal the deal.
- The win and clean sheet move the Pirates’ win streak to three, unbeaten streak to four and the team has still yet to concede a goal since the opener against Florida.
- Though the Pirates outshot the Seahawks 12-4, the game felt more even than that with UNCW earning three corners to ECU’s two and owning their fair share of the possession.
- The Pirates’ propensity for getting a bit ahead of themselves came into play again with four offside calls.
The Pirates travel to High Point to face the Panthers on Sunday at 4 p.m. The match will be available for streaming on ESPN+.