GREENVILLE, N.C. (ECU) – A late defensive stand helped the ECU women’s soccer team beat SMU 2-1 on Sunday afternoon in Johnson Stadium for the first conference win of the season.
“We’re obviously very happy about the win,” said head coach Jason Hamilton. “A win’s a win, they’re not all going to be pretty. I thought we played a great first half. We talked about energy level and competing, I thought we did a really good job of doing that.”
For most of the first half, neither team could generate clear cut scoring chances. Luckily for ECU, the Pirates were able to create one with less than two minutes remaining in the half. Kat Gonzalez passed to Daria Draovitch at the top of the SMU box. Draovitch had two defenders between her and the goal, but she used her first touch to pop the ball into the air and into space behind the SMU backs. Draovitch then ran onto the ball and took a shot across her body that caught the inside of the post and bounced into the goal to give ECU the lead.
The Pirates doubled their lead shortly after the halftime break. Morgan Dewey swung a corner kick into the SMU box and both teams scrambled to win the ball. After a few bounces, Kim Sanford was able to direct the ball towards Madie Knaggs who tucked her shot home, making the score 2-0. It was the first career goal for Knaggs.
The Mustangs gained a life line in the 84th minute off a corner kick of their own. Although ECU was able to clear Celiana Torres’ initial cross into the box, it was only as far as Hailey Bishop, who was waiting at the top of the Pirate penalty area. Bishop took one touch to trap the ball and then let fly a shot that found the back of the net.
SMU pressed forward in the final six minutes, looking to get the game-tying goal. But the Pirates were able to repel every attack, including stopping four corner kicks in that span and blocking two SMU shots.
“We need to be better as a team with a lead,” Hamilton said. “We saw that on Thursday night, we gave up a two goal lead and today we made it very difficult on ourselves to close it out. We can’t stop playing. We’ve got to keep pushing through it when we’re winning and not thinking we can just defend. That’s where we can keep growing as a team and push on.”
ECU finished with a 16-12 edge in shots while SMU held a 7-3 advantage in corner kicks. Melanie Stiles made four saves in goal for the Pirates.
“I think our energy level dropped a little bit there, but we’re happy with the win,” added Hamilton. “That’s a good team. To get that first win in the conference hopefully can get us going."
ECU will head on the final road trip of the regular season. The Pirates play at UCF on Thursday night. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m.