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The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, October 8, 2008

By Bethany Bradsher

Lady Pirates soccer on the rise

By Bethany Bradsher
All rights reserved.

The hot start that consumed all of the Pirate Nation’s attention has faded a bit for the East Carolina football team. But there's another program on campus that is sustaining its early season success.

Meet the women’s soccer team, occupants of the top spot in the Conference USA standings and the only team in the conference that hasn’t lost a league game.

They are 8-3-1 overall and 3-0-1 in C-USA competition. All that, and they played their last four games on the road.

“Everyone’s been really focused, even more so than usual,” said senior Madison Keller. “For some reason, things are just clicking.”

The highlights to this point have included back-to-back shutouts of Rice and Houston, a 2-0 victory over Southern Miss and, prior to the conference slate, a 2-1 overtime win at UNC-Wilmington.

Along the way, the Lady Pirates have earned distinctions like a No. 13 ranking in the Southeast Region and a Conference USA Defensive Player of the Week award for senior goalkeeper Amber Campbell.

Not bad for a team that lost three dependable senior defenders to graduation and had to find creative ways to fill the holes in the backfield, Coach Rob Donnenwirth said.

Players like Keller, a senior who moved from the midfield, and senior transfer Savanna Russo have stepped in to keep opponents from penetrating their defense, and they have typified the work ethic off the entire squad.

“Overall, this team is just a very hard-working team,” Donnenwirth said. “I think it’s a team that will be in every game we play, and I think every game will be close. They understand they’re a blue-collar type team that has to work to win.”

“I just think we really want it this year and I think we have a good chance," said junior Alexis Foltz, who has scored three goals so far in conference play, including the game winner against Southern Miss. “People are just getting ready one game at a time.”

With six more C-USA games remaining before the championship tournament in November in Houston, the seniors have been emphasizing the need to take each game one at time.

For instance, they don’t want to dwell on Sunday’s 1-1 tie at Central Florida, an outcome that frustrated the players nearly as badly as a loss. But with the next two weekends dedicated to home games, the women hope to use that non-win as a spark to excel even more.

“It’s more frustrating almost to have a tie, because you get that taste of victory, it’s right there,” said senior Nicole Moore. “It just helps you to remember what it takes to get a win.”

This weekend the soccer team will look to continue its streak of excellence with weekend home games against Tulsa (Friday at 4 p.m.) and Southern Methodist (Sunday at 1 p.m.)

The players always work to spread the word to recruit bigger home crowds, but they have already seen fan interest grow, even before their recent C-USA success.

“Our first home game, we had the biggest turnout we’ve ever had since I’ve been here,” Keller said. “It was unbelievable. There were even people lined up at the top of the baseball stadium.”

At Tuesday afternoon’s practice, Donnenwirth reminded them that they have already raised the bar for their program, but they must continue to inch it upward if they are going to win the C-USA title and inspire the Pirates who practice on adjacent athletic fields.

“I think we just need to stay focused and not get too far ahead of ourselves,” Keller said.

“The big thing is, they have to decide do they want to be good or do they want to be great,,” Donnenwirth said.

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10/08/2008 01:47:32 AM

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