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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, September 14, 2011

By Bethany Bradsher

Women's soccer, golf teams seize spotlight

Kimmy Cummings
Caty Butler
Julia Strandberg
(ECU SID images)


Women's soccer, golf teams seize spotlight
Ruff anxious to get past off week
Scheme, talent are upgrading defense
Game Center: Virginia Tech 17, ECU 10
Box Score / Statistics
Audio: Ruffin McNeill Post-game
Game Day Photo Gallery
Myatt: Schedule is what it is
O'Brien: Down day for Davis
C-USA Scoreboard
Monroe: Kevin's Keys to the Game
ECU Schedule, Scores, Attendance
Conference dominoes starting to teeter

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

The bye week might mean a quiet news week on the East Carolina football front, but a couple of Lady Pirates teams made up noise of their own on Tuesday.

First, the ECU soccer team learned that the National Soccer Coaches Association of America had ranked the Pirates No. 10 in the Central Region, proving that Rob Donnenwirth’s coaching colleagues have taken notice of his squad’s 4-1-1 record and the steady play of athletes like senior Kimmy Cummings and junior Caty Butler.

Butler, who was named Conference USA Player of the Week two weeks ago for scoring both of the goals in a 2-0 victory over UNC-Wilmington, said that she has felt optimistic about teams in past preseasons, but this one seemed special from the moment the players returned to campus.

“I think every year we’ve had the potential to be really good, but I think this is the first year that for some reason or the other it all gelled together,” said Butler, a junior from Boerne, TX. “Everybody did the work they were supposed to do during the summer.”

Adherence to summer strength and conditioning plans is one of the main variables in the success of a team with a fall schedule, and when athletes show lukewarm commitment to their plan during the summer it means more work for coaches when preseason workouts start.

In the case of the soccer team, none of that ramp-up time was necessary, Butler said.

“It makes all the difference,” she said. “If you come into preseason and we’re not fit, then all preseason is just getting us where we could have been at the beginning of the preseason.”

Another difference for the team, which will travel to South Carolina to face Francis Marion University on Sunday and to Colorado Springs next week to open Conference USA play against Colorado College, is the experience offered by seven seniors and six juniors. The stability and leadership offered by the senior class have helped empower emerging players like freshmen Kelley Johnson and Lexi Miller, who scored in ECU’s 2-2 tie with William & Mary, the nation's No. 21 team, on Sunday.

Of course, a brand-new stadium full of 1,000 boosters doesn’t hurt, especially since the team had to play off campus at North Campus Crossing last year. The crowds are becoming increasingly enthusiastic, and with that atmosphere comes a pride that makes the Pirates want to win at home even more.

“We think it’s our home now, and we’ve really taken an attitude that we don’t want to lose in our stadium,” Butler said.

As the conference slate heats up, the Lady Pirates will face the truest test of their ability to compete on a national stage. Among their C-USA opponents are three teams ranked above them in the Central Region — Memphis (no. 2), Central Florida (no. 3) and Rice (no. 8). Matchups with teams of that caliber guarantee a higher RPI, and if the Pirates do qualify for the NCAA Tournament the competition they have faced in conference play will help prepare them for anyone.

Ladies master the links

The other East Carolina team that was on the receiving end of national accolades Tuesday was the women’s golf squad, which competed in a 12-team field at the Golfweek Program Challenge and came out on top. The championship, which set a new school record for 54 holes with a score of 870, marked the third time in five years that the Lady Pirates opened their season with a tournament title.

Senior Julia Strandberg paced her team at the tournament, which was played at the Caledonia Golf and Fish Club in Pawleys Island, SC. She finished third overall in the tournament, a triumph that is even more amazing considering a back injury that has plagued her throughout college and frequently kept her from making ECU’s starting five.

The Golfweek Program Challenge was only Strandberg's third career start, but she served notice with a career record in 18-hole score (68) and 54-hole score (216).

"It's unbelievable," Coach Kevin Williams told’s Ryan Lavner. "I can't even begin to describe how amazing it feels to pull for someone so hard for three years and see it finally pay off."

E-mail Bethany Bradsher

Bethany Bradsher Archives

10/04/2011 01:33 AM

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