The East Carolina University women’s basketball team finished its 2018-2019 on March 9, when it got eliminated by the University of Connecticut during the second round of the American Athletic Conference quarterfinals by a final score of 65-92, ending the season with a very tough and competitive game.
The team finished the year with a 16-15 record and a 6-10 record in conference play, ending with the eighth best record in the AAC.
For the Pirates, it was an up and down season both off and on the court. They started the year with their head coach Heather Macy resigning. Assistant coach Chad Killinger took over and led the team as interim head coach until he had to step down due to health issues. He rejoined the team later on during the season as an assistant coach. Acting head coach Nicole Mealing led the team for the remainder of the year.
“It was a great experience, not only for me but for the rest of the staff as well, we had to step up and do things that we normally will not do,” Mealing said. “Being in this role has taught me so much about myself and about the players and my staff as well. I’m so proud of everybody for sticking together and putting up a good fight overall.”
The team struggled to stay healthy all season long, as it played a huge part in their inability to reach their potential, causing them to play multiple starting line-ups throughout the season that they were not used to.
Despite its injury problems, ECU still played its hearts out, as it would have a great start. The team would win its first five games of the season, with three of them being double digit wins. In the first 11 games, the Pirates were 9-2, a great position to be in before their Christmas break.
They encountered their first rough patch of the season right after when they lost against Duke University (15-15, 6-10 AAC) on the road 66-83 on Dec. 28 and had their second losing streak of the year, which lasted three games, until they got back on track at home against Wichita State University (12-18, 5-11 AAC) on Jan. 9 with a 22 point win, 78-56.
Right after they were found with their backs against the wall, as they went through a five game losing streak that lasted from Jan. 12-29. ECU bounced back with hard fought fights during its final 11 games of the season, where it went 6-5 during that stretch.
The Pirates finished the regular season with two straight wins against the University of Tulsa (13-18, 6-10 AAC) 64-60 on March 2 and Southern Methodist University (11-19, 5-11 AAC) 67-61 on March 4. They were able to set themselves up for a second straight matchup against SMU in the first round of the conference tournament.
“I’m just so proud of the girls for the fight that they showed, throughout the season. Injuries really did prevent us from doing what we really wanted to do this year, we only had three players that played in all games this year so it took a big hit on us but so proud of the fight they gave and played every single game,” Mealing said.
The Pirates entered the AAC tournament as the No. 8 seed, which meant playing SMU again for their first round game, as they went on to win 50-48 in overtime. This ended in senior forward Destiny Campbell stealing the ball in the last possession of the game, helping the team advance to the second round of the tournament, due to an impressive all-around performance from the team, as they had four players scoring in double figures.
The second game was played against UConn (31-2, 16-0), a game that was well fought and the team was only down seven points at halftime, but the Huskies got away in the second half, and managed to win 92-65, ending the season for the Pirates.
ECU, despite all the adversity, had a very impressive season and will look to accomplish what they wanted to next year. They will lose four seniors, including point guard Alex Frazier and forwards Desiree Corbin, Salita Greene and Campbell.
“The seniors did a really good job for us, those are going to be some tough shoes to fill for us next year, just want to thank them for everything they have done for this program. They dedicated their time and they sacrificed so much for the betterment of this program. So first I thank them,” Mealing said.
The team will return starters such as sophomore guard Ariyana Williams, junior guard Raven Johnson and sophomore guard Lashonda Monk. Monk was named an AAC Third-Team All Conference this year.
“We’re moving in the right direction, we have Monk coming back, she was our leading scorer this season, top five in the nation in steals,” Mealing said. “Raven Johnson, you have Ariyana Williams coming back, hopefully we can get her back 100 percent healthy, she was our leading scorer last year so that is going to help a lot. Also, Nicole Hope, we’re gonna be really fast next year, the girls are eager to get back to the gym and get back to work.”