East Carolina’s women’s soccer team came out on top in what was a classic season opener as the Pirates beat the Dayton Flyers 3-2 on a golden goal from midfielder Marianna Shurina in the seventh minute during the first overtime frame.
“It’s awesome because it’s the first game of the season and we didn’t know we were playing overtime,” Shurina said. “I’m excited we got a win out of it and it’s really going to give us momentum going forward.”
ECU’s game plan was all about focus and consistency, according to Head Coach Rob Donnenwirth. Playing a Dayton team that is currently polled to finish first in the Atlantic 10 Division is never an easy task. In order to beat them, Donnenwirth said it’s important to prepare to bring more defensive intensity, make simple routine passes and be more aggressive around the box when they get its chances.
“Our scouting report was very minimal and I just wanted to see us compete really hard,” Donnenwirth said. “Defensively, we wanted to stay in our shape which I thought we did well in the first half, picking off balls one after another. When fatigue starts to sets in, that’s when one person doesn’t get there and it’s easier for them to get out which happened in the second half.”
The Pirates were in control for most of the first half. Their defense was the key as they didn’t allow a shot on goal while shooting six of their own. The first goal of the game came off a beautiful assist in between two defenders from midfielder Courtney Cash to midfielder Ashley Kendrot that put ECU up 1-0 at the 37th minute of the first half. This was also the redshirt sophomore's first career goal.
At the start of the second half, however, Dayton came out with a quicker pace and more intensity that caught the Pirates off guard after they adjusted their formation. Dayton’s Caroline Mink put on a series of moves before scoring the Flyers’ first goal of the game in the 51st minute. Cash came right back to score for ECU just one minute later to give the Pirates a 2-1 lead. Similar to Cash’s response, Dayton’s Micayla Livingston scored off of a pass from a free kick cross assisted by Nadia Pestell to quickly tie the game at 2-2 in the 55th minute.
Not only did the Pirates have to face the lightning quick Nadia Pestell and her Flyers, but they also had to combat the hot and humid weather throughout the game. There was a mandatory water break taken in between each half, and it was evident in the second half that the heat was taking its toll on players of both teams when the pace of the game slowed down.
With the game now heading into overtime, it was hard to see how ECU would pull out a win when having to fight through its fatigue. Thanks to the heroics of Shurina, the Pirates took the edge in the season opener in a thrilling 3-2 fashion. Cash came across the goal to block her opponent, which freed the ball up on the left side of the goalpost giving Shurina the opportunity to end the game. The Pirates secured their first win of the season with an extra time win in the 93rd minute showing they can outlast their opponent.
The Pirates will look to add another win to their exciting start, with a road match against Davidson Wildcats this Friday at 7 p.m.