East Carolina University’s soccer team will put its undefeated record (4-0-1) on the line again when it face its longtime rival, the No. 23 NC State Wolfpack, in Raleigh tonight at 7 p.m. in search for another win.
The Pirates, in the team’s best start in program history, have overcome all of their challengers so far this season, hence their undefeated record. However, tonight’s key matchup against the Wolfpack will be their first rival game of the season.
“I think that there is naturally going to be some extra juices flowing,” head coach Rob Donnenwirth said. “For me it’s making sure they concentrate on things they have to do in the game versus trying to get them motivated.”
Even though the Pirates have only scored a total of seven goals on the season, their defense has only allowed a total of three goals while posting three straight shutouts.
The Pirates’ success on defense has been anchored by defender Jayda Hylton-Pelaia and goalkeeper Michelle Newhouse. Donnenwirth said, because Hylton-Pelaia is such a lockdown defender on the right that when the ball goes out to her, he has no doubt she will stop it. Newhouse’s 3-0-1 record and 0.24 goals against average shows the stability she adds to the already dangerously stable backline. Newhouse had a career high in saves during the Pirates’ action on Sunday (seven).
Despite only scoring seven goals, ECU’s offense has been centered around an unselfish brand of team oriented offense. Midfielder/forward Courtney Cash and midfielder/forward Annah Lindberg both have two goals on the season. Midfielders Cashlin Copley, Ashley Kendrot and Marianna Shurina also have scored a goal a piece. The Pirates’ goals have racked up nine assists thus far as well with defender Veronica Thordardottir, midfielder Jenna Geist, and Cash leading the team with two assists a piece.
“I think when it’s a game like this, sometimes you lose sight of what you need to do and hope that emotion will take over and carry you the whole way, so for me it’s more about keeping them focused and what we need to do collectively to win,” Donnenwirth said.
NC State is coming off its 5-0 rout against Elon, and enters tonight’s matchup with a record of 4-1-0. The Wolfpack, similar to the Pirates, have a main focus on defense. NC State has allowed only three goals and held its opponents to a total of 11 shots on goal for the entire season.
The Wolfpack and Pirates defense have been almost a mirror image of one another, but NC State has the edge on offense. The Wolfpack have scored 13 goals for a 55.4 shots on goal (SGA) percentage on the season compared to the Pirates seven goals on 52.2 SGA. Wolfpack’s midfielder Tziarra King has been the offensive catalyst for NC State, leading the team in goals (three) and assists (four). King also scored last year at Johnson Stadium in a 2-0 win for NC State.
After suffering that loss last season, ECU can play tonight’s game with another chip on its shoulder to prove that they belong in the conversation with nationally ranked teams. ECU versus NC State will give the Pirates an opportunity to improve their historic start.
“NC State is very good team and is a nationally ranked team right now,” Donnenwirth said. “Were breaking down video to show the girls some of that so we know how to defend them. Without giving any gameplans away, we have an idea how we want to defend them, it’s just a matter of stopping them because they have some really talented players.”