ECU women's soccer ends regular season with win over UConn
The regular season ended on a high note as the ECU women’s soccer team defeated UConn 2-0 on Sunday afternoon in Johnson Stadium. The Pirates will move onto the American Conference tournament starting on Wednesday.
“What a great way to wrap up the regular season,” said head coach Jason Hamilton. “A win at home to claim 4th place in the conference, a lot of players got a chance to play and a senior scoring a great last goal at Johnson Stadium for 2018.”
For the third straight home game, the Pirate defense was impregnable, holding the Huskies to just four shots on goal all game. However, for the first 45 minutes, ECU’s offense also struggled to get going. The best chance of the opening period came in the 39th minute when Kat Gonzalez used her right foot to rip a curling effort from just outside the Connecticut box. Huskie goalkeeper Randi Palacios did just enough to tip the shot off the crossbar where it fell to Jenna Dages, who headed just over the bar.
ECU finally got on the scoreboard in the 66th minute. Jayda Hylton-Pelaia swung a cross into the Connecticut box from the right wing. First to it was Cashlin Copley and Copley was able to head home to open the scoring. It was the second straight game Copley has scored the opening goal for ECU.
The Pirates added a goal in the 86th minute to close the game out. Kat Gonzalez won the ball deep in the Huskie box with her back to the goal. Rather than turning and shooting herself, Gonzalez dropped a pass to Ashley Kendrot who was waiting at the top of the box. Kendrot took a one-time shot that beat Palacios, doubling ECU’s lead.
“We wanted to focus on using this game to prepare for Wednesday,” Hamilton said. “We told them to use it as a way to get better and I thought we did well."
The teams finished with 12 shots each while UConn had a slight 2-1 edge in corner kicks. Melanie Stiles finished with four saves in goal for ECU, closing out her third straight shutout and sixth total this season.
With the win, ECU finishes the regular season with a 10-5-2 overall record and a 5-4-0 AAC mark. The 10 wins are the most for the Pirates since winning 12 in the 2014 season while the five conference wins are ECU’s most in the AAC. The Pirates enter the conference tournament as the No. 4 seed, their highest ever finish in the AAC. ECU finishes this season 8-1 in Johnson Stadium, tying the program record for home wins in a season. Finally, the four-win improvement from last year’s 6-10-2 record is the biggest single season jump since the 2008 team improved by five victories.
“This weekend goes to show you how strong this conference really is,” Hamilton added. “Cincinnati and UConn found themselves at the bottom of the table, but they are both fiercely competitive teams with extremely talented players. As I’ve said a couple of times before, we have accomplished a lot, but we are still hungry for more at the tournament.
Next up for the Pirates is the opening round of the AAC Championship against No. 5 seed SMU. The match, which will be hosted by USF, will kickoff at 7 p.m., on Wednesday evening in Corbett Stadium.