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Pirate Soccer wins home opener

(WITN)
Published: Aug. 19, 2018 at 11:42 PM EDT
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GREENVILLE, N.C. – In the home opener, the ECU women's soccer team jumped out to a huge halftime lead and never looked back, cruising to a 5-1 win over Radford on Sunday night in Johnson Stadium.

"Everybody likes to be at home," said head coach Jason Hamilton. "You can sleep in your own bed and be prepared and it's where we train every day. You want to be comfortable while we're here, but you also want to protect that. In our conference, every game is going to be a battle and we know we have to win our home games to have the chance to compete in the postseason. We had a tough battle on Friday night and I thought our girls did fantastic. To play with 10 players for 105 minutes and get a tie on the road, I told them, it make me excited to see what we do with 11 players."

ECU improves to 1-0-1 on the season while Radford drops to 0-1-1. The win marks the first victory at ECU for Hamilton, who was making his home debut.

The Pirates opened a two goal gap on the Highlanders in the blink of an eye. In the eighth minute, Morgan Dewey swung in a corner kick and Jenna Dages was there on the back post to head home. Just 22 seconds later, Grace Doran raced into the Radford box and took a shot that found the back of the net.

"You can't start a game better with two goals in the first 10 minutes," added Hamilton. "We really wanted to talk about the urgency in our play and our intensity. To play 26 players gave us exactly what we needed, because we had some players who were just shot after that game on Friday. I thought they did a fantastic job."

ECU was not done scoring in the first half. In the 35th minute, Marianna Shurina took a throw-in from the right wing and tossed it to the feet of Courtney Cash. Cash, with her back to the goal, settled the ball, turned and buried her shot into the bottom right corner of the net.

Less than two minutes after Cash's goal, the Pirates again lit up the scoreboard. Jayda Hylton-Pelaia cut into the Radford box from the right side and was tripped up by a Highlander defender, giving ECU a penalty kick for the second straight game. This time, Carsen Parker stepped up to take the spot kick and the sophomore defender slammed it home to extend the lead to 4-0.

"I told them at halftime, I'm not going to stop coaching you," Hamilton said. "I'm going to be as hard on you as I can because everything that we can fix now is just going to help us be more successful down the road."

The four goals in the first half were the most ECU has scored in a period since scoring five in the second half of a 5-0 win over Marshall on Oct. 6, 2006.

In the second half, the Highlanders mounted a brief comeback when Jessica Wollmann stroked a shot into the upper right corner of the ECU goal. But ECU regained its four-goal cushion in the 62nd minute when Kat Gonzalez pounced on a Radford pass, pushed past a pair of defenders and calmly slotted the ball into the goal.

ECU finished with a commanding 22-6 edge in shots and took six corners to Radford's one. Melanie Stiles played the first 72 minutes in goal and made one save to earn her first win of the season. Erin Bradley relieved Stiles for the final 18 minutes and made one save of her own.

"We wanted to give the fans something exciting and I think we did," finished Hamilton. "We try to be as offensive as we can, we have a really good attacking group and a really young group. For the goal scorers, they get streaks. We want them to get the first goal and then hopefully they keep coming."

The Pirates return to the road next, traveling to NC State for a matchup on Thursday, Aug. 23. Kickoff is scheduled for 7:00 p.m.