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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, August 18, 2010

By Bethany Bradsher

Temporary exile doesn't deter Pirates

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

In the spring, when the East Carolina softball players had to watch their new stadium go up as they played in their old one, the seniors knew they weren’t likely to set foot on the new field. This fall, their friends on the soccer team find themselves in a similar situation.

When they play their first home game against Francis Marion on Sunday, the Pirates won’t even be within walking distance of their new soccer digs. They will be competing at the ECU recreation complex near North Campus Crossing for the indefinite future, but they still hope they might get in a few games in the new stadium before their schedule closes out in late October.

The original construction plans called for the season to commence on the new field, even though the old field couldn’t even be torn out until the track and field squad finished practicing there in April. But the contractors have run into a hassle getting the proper occupancy permits, said head soccer coach Rob Donnenwirth, and at this point the sod hasn’t even been put down yet.

“We’re going with the mindset that we’re going to play at North Recreation this season,” Donnenwirth said. “We’re going to dress it up nice.”

On the bright side, the Pirates have a ready-made fan base in the massive North Campus Crossing complex, and because the field has lights they have switched three of their home meetings from daytime to evenings. With a more experienced squad than last year, Donnenwirth and his upperclassmen are hopeful that they will provide fans ample reason to drive out to their temporary home.

“I think this is a good group of competitors,” he said. “They really work hard. One thing that’s nice is we have a lot of people coming back.”

The team has plenty of success to build on, with a 9-7-3 record last season and a trip to the Conference USA final game in 2008. They only lost two players from the 2009 squad, and this year’s seniors have noticed a new confidence this year from the players who were new to the college experience a year ago.

“The intensity is really, really high this year,” said senior Amanda Broz. “I think everyone is excited for the season, more than others. Our spring was really good.”

“The experience from last year is huge,” said junior midfielder Jessica Woodward. “All of our midfielders are returning players, and all of our forwards pretty much.”

In an exhibition game against Virginia Commonwealth on Friday, the Pirates played to a 1-1 tie but were actually leading until Donnenwirth took out his starters. He was pleased with some of what he saw offensively in that matchup, he said, but the team still needs to find a rhythm and teamwork that makes the most of every ball possession.

“I thought we’d be able to possess the ball a little better than we did and make better decisions,” Donnenwirth said. “We were too quick to get the ball forward rather than build our attack, but we created some good chances.”

“I think a big part in the midfield is trying to figure out how to connect with each other and then transitioning from the midfield to the forwards,” said senior midfielder Bailey Wilcox.

Wilcox and Woodward, both midfielders, said that everybody in the midfield has played in Division I before, and because of their experience they have the potential to build a strong foundation for every shot a forward takes. They worked hard in the preseason, but the adjustments that still remain for the Pirates can only come from real game conditions on the field, even if it is a borrowed field.

“Just playing together is the biggest thing,” Wilcox said. “All preseason we’ve really been working on individual things, but now it’s just actually playing soccer, getting to know each other and the way we play again.”

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08/18/2010 02:34 AM

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