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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, October 24, 2012

By Bethany Bradsher

Bethany Bradsher

Soccer hosts Marshall as tourney looms

By Bethany Bradsher
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For five and a half hours over three consecutive game days, the East Carolina soccer team wasn’t scored on once. That accomplishment was significant, but it would have meant even more if not for the fact that the Pirates couldn’t score on their opponents either.

The Pirates, who can finish fourth in Conference USA with a victory over Marshall Thursday night, provided fodder for those who might say soccer lacks action by playing to three consecutive scoreless ties at Rice and at home against Southern Methodist and Tulsa.

In each of those 0-0 tilts, the women played for 90 minutes of regulation and two separate 10-minute overtime periods, all without the ball ever finding the back of the goal.

The hero amid all of those zeros? Pirate goalkeeper Christiane Cordero.

A junior from Valencia, CA, Cordero achieved seven shutouts in a stretch of eight games that culminated in the trio of scoreless ties. For her efforts, she was named the C-USA Defensive Player of the Week three times in four weeks and produced the second-longest streak of shutouts in ECU history.

“She’s just been really on her game,” head soccer coach Rob Donnenwirth said. “She’s just someone who always feels she can be the difference in a game. And in a few cases she has been.”

Originally a recruited walk-on, Cordero earned a scholarship after redshirting her freshman season and became the starter the following year, finishing second in saves in the conference. Her presence in the goal has become continually steadier.

Having taken on the challenges of her sport, Cordero believes her confidence with the intensity of Division I soccer has increased as well.

“It’s always been a daunting thing,” she said. “Very few people are satisfied with their athletic career, especially when you play Division I, because there’s always something better to strive for,” she said.

That streak of ties and victories came to an abrupt end on Friday at Central Florida, where the Pirates hit their roughest patch of the season with a 7-0 loss. They bounced back two days later with a 3-1 triumph at Southern Miss.

The UCF defeat was ECU's only conference loss this season, but because of the ties the Pirates still can’t finish higher than fourth in the league.

That loss certainly stung for Cordero after five straight shutouts, but she said that ultimately the Pirates passed the test by rebounding to win the next road game.

Now, noted Cordero, the Pirates are convinced that their one difficult defeat is behind them with the playoffs still ahead.

“The whole conference, I feel like has been staring at us for the last few weeks trying to figure out what we’re going to do,” Cordero said. “We knew eventually that we were going to get scored upon, but it was imperative for us as a defensive unit to take things as they come. With a 7-0 loss under our belt, there’s really nothing left to be scared of.”

For evidence of the soccer parity in C-USA, look no further than that stretch of scoreless matches in mid-October. And even if losses have been few and the Pirates might have hoped for a higher seed entering the C-USA Tournament next week in El Paso, Donnenwirth has every reason to believe that his squad can compete with anyone it faces.

“With the exception of the UCF game, we’ve been in every game we’ve played,” Donnenwirth said. “Every game from here on out is winnable, but every game is going to be tough.”

The Marshall game, under the lights at ECU at 7 p.m. Thursday, is a must-win for the Pirates, and both Donnenwirth and Cordero are confident that the Pirate Nation will turn out in large numbers to soak up what Cordero considers to be the best atmosphere in the finest stadium in the conference.

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10/24/2012 02:10 AM

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