East Carolina University’s soccer team looks to put its disastrous first half of American Athletic Conference play behind it when it takes on the University of Memphis in a home match tonight at 7 p.m. The Pirates are still looking for their first conference win.
ECU (5-6-2, 0-4 AAC) is coming off a much needed bye week where it had 10 days to refocus for the second half of conference play. According to head coach Rob Donnenwirth, the Pirates utilized the bye week to work on areas they needed to get better in in order to have a successful run against the remaining conference opponents.
“We were really working on being more aggressive attacking wise and one on one situations to get more shots off,” Donnenwirth said. “There are times that we are just trying to make the perfect goal instead of just getting shots off.”
After the Pirates’ hot start to the season, ECU enters tonight’s matchup dead last in the AAC standings with 0 points after losing its first four conference games. Southern Methodist is the only other team in the AAC that hasn’t secured a conference win (0-3-1).
The Pirates’ inability to secure a conference win has mainly been due to their struggles on offense. They’ve only scored two goals during conference play, while being outscored by seven (9-2). According to Donnenwirth, Memphis plays an old-school sweeper style offense, but he believes ECU will have plenty of scoring opportunities when the Tigers turn the ball over.
“Memphis is a good possession team, but I feel like they could leave themselves exposed when they give the ball away,” Donnenwirth said. “It will come down to how quickly we can find our target player and then run off our target player to try to get behind on the counter.”
ECU has had no problem getting its offensive production from forward Courtney Cash this season. Cash leads the team in goals (five) and points (12), which helped her efforts at becoming named student athlete of the month for September. The difference this season for the experienced junior is that she has taken has also taken responsibility of being a leader by example with her exceptional performance on the field.
“I personally see myself as a leader particularly on the field,” Cash said. “I like to lead that part to bring energy and I constantly want to work and keep a positive vibe on the field.”
Memphis (9-5-1, 0-3-1 AAC) enters tonight’s matchup in a more comfortable situation of securing a tournament berth than ECU, as it ranks fourth in-conference. Memphis forward Elizabeth Woerner leads the Tigers with 10 goals and 22 points on the season, while forward Marie Levasseur and midfielder Mikayla Morton are tied for second on the team with 20 points a piece.
Despite being the underdog, ECU will look to take advantage of Memphis’ kryptonite: the Tigers’ being a completely different team on the road than at home. At home, the Tigers average just more than 2.5 goals while only allowing one goal per game with a 7-1-1 record. But on the road, the Tigers average 1.75 goals while allowing a staggering four goals per game with a 0-4-0 record.
According to Pirate’s forward Annah Lindberg, the advantage ECU has over Memphis is not just the Tiger’s inability to play like an elite team on the road, but rather the chemistry and heart of the Pirates that will help ECU prevail in capturing its first conference win of the season.
“I think we definitely have an advantage because having new players and smart older players being really close as a team can really help us come up with an attack and defensively prevent them from getting crosses in beating us one on one,” Lindberg said. “When we’re locking that down by preventing crosses and getting beat one on one, the rest of it just comes from hard work and heart and who wants it more.”