Pirates earn second seed in East Division for third straight C-USA Tournament berth
GREENVILLE, NC October 31, 2013 – Playing in her final regular-season home game, redshirt junior defender Danielle Romano scored her first-career-goal on a penalty kick with five seconds remaining to give the East Carolina women’s soccer team a 2-1 victory over Middle Tennessee State on Senior Night, Thursday evening at the ECU Soccer Stadium.
The win earned the Pirates a guaranteed spot in the 2013 Conference USA Tournament – their third straight berth into the annual tournament.
After picking up three points as part of a large shakeup atop the East Division standings, East Carolina (8-8-3, 5-4-1 C-USA) jumped from the No. 4 seed to the No. 2 seed on the final day of the regular season. ECU will open play in the C-USA Tournament quarterfinals against the West Division’s third seed, UTEP (12-5-3, 5-3-2 C-USA), next Wednesday, Nov. 6 in Houston, Texas.
“I thought Middle Tennessee played a great game,” head coach Rob Donnenwirth said. “They were a lot faster than we thought when we watched them on film. They moved the ball well and made us work. They did some things in the midfield that made us really confused as the game went on.”
The first half saw both teams come out with aggressive styles, trading shots on goal and pressuring each other up and down the sidelines. East Carolina found a seam of its own in the 21st minute when junior forward Stephanie Seagrave sent a sailing pass deep into the Middle Tennessee (6-8-4, 3-5-2) defense and onto the foot of midfielder Lexi Miller, who made a run up the right side and raced into the Blue Raiders’ goal box. Miller had a direct line to the right side of the goal, but sent a perfect pass to sophomore striker Kendall Frey near the left post, where she fired a shot into the right corner of the net to put the Pirates ahead, 1-0.
ECU would take that lead into the intermission, despite being outshot, 8-4, and sharing a 2-2 balance in corner kick chances.
The Pirates turned into a bit of a defensive mode, but Middle Tennessee remained hungry, knowing it needed a victory with its postseason hopes on the line. The Blue Raiders knotted up the score, 1-1, in the 66th minute when Tori Hawkins slipped a shot into the ECU net.
The intensity picked up for the final 23-plus minutes, as both teams had their fair share of scoring chances as the second half progressed.
With 10 seconds remaining and East Carolina in possession of the ball, an entry pass to Frey went across the Blue Raiders’ goal box, where Frey was fouled just inside the left line of the goal box and a yellow card was issued to MTSU midfielder Kelsie Roberts with five ticks left on the clock.
Romano, one of three captains as part of the Pirates’ senior class, stepped up to the penalty-kick line, where she drilled a perfect shot into the top right corner of the net for the game-winning goal.
“That’s the first penalty kick she’s every taken,” Donnenwirth said. “She’s practiced them, but it’s another thing with seconds left in the game, and man, she buried it.”
While the ECU defense dropped its opponents’ shooting percentage to .079 for the season, redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Saundra Baron made a number of big saves and finished the night with seven. Baron has now recorded seven or more saves in five times and has 83 stops on the season to complement a 1.06 goals-against average.