As Hurricane Florence came and hit Greenville over the weekend, several East Carolina University teams had to make adjustments as practices, tournaments and games were affected by the weather.
ECU football canceled its trip to Blacksburg, Virginia to play Virginia Tech last Saturday. Instead, the Pirates bused to Orlando, Florida last Wednesday and has stayed there since, practicing at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex in preparation for its game at the University of South Florida on Saturday at 3:30 p.m.
Head coach Scottie Montgomery and the football staff recruit from the North Carolina area often, so many of the players' families were affected by Florence as well. Montgomery addressed Pirate Nation and eastern North Carolina Monday about Hurricane Florence.
“We're praying for you every day. As a team, we're praying for you at the beginning of practice and at the end of practice. You guys are heavily on our minds because you are our family, you are our support system,” Montgomery said. “We're praying for you and we know that there's situations that will become better and there's situations that will take a lot of work to get back through.”
While Hurricane Florence put a fork in the Pirates’ plans, Montgomery noted the Pirates went through similar circumstances two seasons ago when Hurricane Matthew caused major flooding and damage around ECU, and other parts of eastern North Carolina.
“But we've been through things like this before. We saw it happen a few years ago. We returned stronger, I know we will return stronger now. We have to endure through times like this,” Montgomery said. “Our team is playing with a lot of confidence right now, we're practicing with a lot of confidence right now. So, we're trying to go out and put together a great performance on the field for you guys. We love every part of eastern North Carolina."
One thing which has helped ECU players and staffs’ families is the use of FaceTime on phones, according to Montgomery. Being able to physically see their families and know they are okay has helped greatly.
“It brings a greater sense of ease, I believe, just giving our guys a certain sense of ease. The overwhelming part of it, was that our parents were so relieved that their kids were in a safe place,” Montgomery said.
Montgomery said ECU is trying to make the week as normal as possible despite being in Florida. Montgomery said the Pirates will practice the same as they would in Greenville and will simulate things such as study hall.
Montgomery explained ECU’s decision to relocate to Florida. He said ECU waited as long as it could, but the school announced Tuesday that teams wouldn’t travel to any away games. He said they traveled a longer distance than they would have liked, but they were lucky enough to find a host and be safe.
“At the end of the day, it was all about making sure that our kids were safe and that's what we based it all around,” Montgomery said.
The East Carolina University women’s golf team was also left disappointed after Hurricane Florence forced the Pirates to cancel their home tournament, the Pirate Collegiate Classic, which was scheduled for Monday and Tuesday at the Greenville Country Club. The Pirates were coming off a strong performance last week in their first tournament this season at the Minnesota Invitational, where the team finished in fourth place.
Head coach Kevin Williams is disappointed that the team’s home match was canceled, but will take advantage of the extra time off to prepare for the Illini Women’s Invitational on Oct. 8 and Oct. 9.
“We’re obviously very disappointed that we had to cancel our home tournament,” Williams said. ‘It’s especially tough for our three seniors and the folks at Greenville Country Club. With that being said, we are turning our attention to the tournament at the University of Illinois over fall break.”
Coach Williams will have his team take advantage of their time off to work on their game and prepare for their tournament next month. After a strong fourth place finish at the Minnesota Invitational, Hurricane Florence hit at an inopportune time in which the Pirates could have built on that success. Along with the cancelation of the tournament, the harsh conditions Hurricane Florence has brought across eastern North Carolina has made it difficult for the team to practice on the things that gave them trouble in Minnesota last week.
“A big thing I want to focus on is putting, since I thought that was one thing we struggled with on our last day in Minnesota,” Williams said. “Hopefully we’ll spend a little more time on the putting greens. Basically, we’ll spend the next three weeks trying to hone in our game, and to get better handling these windy conditions.”
Along with ECU women’s golf having it’s home tournament canceled, the ECU volleyball and soccer teams faced cancellations of their own. ECU volleyball was set to play in the second Colonial Classic hosted by the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia on Friday and Saturday, but was forced to cancel due to concerns of Hurricane Florence causing problems in southeastern Virginia.
Just as ECU women’s golf, the cancellation came at an inopportune time for the ECU volleyball team. The Pirates, who are coming off the best season in the program’s history, started the season strong yet again this year, and currently stand at 7-3. The Colonial Classic was going to serve as the Pirates final tune-up before entering it’s most important slate of games, their American Athletic Conference schedule.
ECU volleyball will now face AAC opponent University of Cincinnati on Friday, which will be 14 days since the team last played at home in the Pirate Invitational. The team won in sweeps in the first two games of the invitational over Eastern Washington University and Gardner-Webb University, and fell in three sets in the final game against the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. ECU will hope the time between games will play little effect as they look to be one of the top teams in the conference this season.
The ECU soccer team has started strong under first year head coach Jason Hamilton, as they stand at 5-1-2 this year after going just 6-10-2 last season. Similar to ECU volleyball, the soccer team’s final test before American Athletic Conference play was canceled. The team was set to face off against UNC Wilmington on Thursday, as the Pirates were looking to get their third straight in-state win after defeating Campbell University and UNC Charlotte in it’s two previous games. The Pirates will now start a tough AAC schedule starting Thursday on the road against the University of Tulsa, and will look to improve on its poor 1-8 mark it reached last year in the conference.