ECU soccer member, Mariana Shurina, encounters the offense in a battle for the ball.

East Carolina University’s soccer team was officially eliminated from American Athletic Conference tournament contention after a devastating Texas road trip which resulted in a 4-1 blowout loss to the University of Houston Sunday afternoon and a 1-0 loss to Southern Methodist Thursday night.

ECU started the game strong as forward Cashlin Copley scored the first goal of the game, giving the Pirates a 1-0 lead. Copley footed an assist from goalkeeper Michelle Newhouse off a free kick during the 19th minute, earning her third goal of the season. It wasn’t too long before Houston tied things up when midfielder Mia Brascia scored off a rebound from forward Jazmin Grant’s initial shot attempt in the 33rd minute to knot the game at 1-1.

It all went downhill for the Pirates at the start of the second half as they were treated to the Selena Peters and Grant show. Grant scored the go ahead goal off an assist from forward Peters in the 55th minute to put the Cougars up 2-1. Houston then scored again just 27 seconds later in the same minute, though this time, it was Peters who scored off an assist from Grant. Houston midfielder Hannah Douzat put on the finishing touches as she put the Cougars up 4-1 on an unassisted goal during the 67th minute, ultimately resulting in the final score of the game.

“In the second half we ended up giving two balls away in the middle of the field and they (Houston) had some speed up there and were able to beat us on two counter attacks,” head coach Rob Donnenwirth said. “The first half goal was a bit of a defensive error. We went to leave a player to guard a more dangerous player, but the player that was free dribbled 30 yards uncontested, then the ball gets slid across the face of the goal and (Brascia) scores.”

However, ECU played a much more competitive game against SMU three days prior. The first half was a back-and-forth battle as the Pirates edged the Mustangs 7-5 in shots and 3-1 in corner kicks. Newhouse tallied a career best of six saves in the first half while tying her career best in a game with eight.

However, SMU was awarded a free kick in the 63rd minute resulting in Mustangs’ freshman midfielder Isabelle Nashimi scoring the eventual game winning goal. Nashimi scored on a header off an assist from junior defender Haley Thompson, who took the free kick, to propel the Mustangs past the Pirates. Donnenwirth knew how deadly SMU is on set pieces and this was exactly the kind of goal that ECU did not want to allow.

“Defensively, we knew they would be dangerous on set pieces and we gave away too many fouls in our end,” Donnenwirth said. “We defended most of the set pieces well and Michelle was strong but their only goal came off of a set piece.”

SMU (8-6-3 3-4-1 AAC) currently holds the final spot with 10 points, followed by Houston (7-8-1 3-5 AAC) with nine. These were the two teams that posed threats towards the Pirates (6-9-1, 1-7 AAC) if they wanted any chance at squeezing into the tournament.

As of now, only one spot in the AAC tournament is up for the taking as University of South Florida, University of Central Florida, Cincinnati University, Memphis University and University of Connecticut have already clinched a tournament berth.

“I wouldn’t say any team in our conference is a bad team,” Donnenwirth said. “Both SMU and Houston got key players back from injury. I think all the teams are so equal with the exception of UCF, every game is going to be a (close) game so it’s a matter of who takes advantage of their chances and who finds the back of the net.”

The Pirates will close out the regular season on the road against the Cincinnati University on Friday at 7 p.m.

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