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ECU lacrosse comes to life

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East Carolina's inaugural NCAA lacrosse seasons begins Feb. 10 with a match against George Washington at Johnson Stadium in Greenville.

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Sunday, December 10, 2017

This is Part 1 of an in-depth look at East Carolina women’s lacrosse. The second and final part will run Monday and will feature the Pirates’ roster makeup and some financial details.

 

The women’s lacrosse portion of the Williams-Harvey Team Sports Building on East Carolina’s campus used to be quiet. Fall practices by the Pirates were once awkward at times with 24 freshmen making up roughly 83 percent of their roster.

ECU begins its first-ever NCAA lacrosse season Feb. 10 against George Washington in Greenville, which means times have changed since they were so quiet near Johnson Stadium. There is natural buzz and bustle surrounding women’s lacrosse and its first season.

A breakthrough moment came in late September when the Pirates headed to Norfolk, Va., for their first true competition of any kind and went 1-1 in scrimmages against Old Dominion and Longwood.

“That first team bus trip and not even on the way up, but on the way back, we had the movies going and they were just excited about how they played and they felt like a team because they were competing against somebody else finally,” said head coach Amanda Barnes, a former player at North Carolina and assistant coach at Duke who was the Blue Devils’ defensive coordinator and helped them make the national semifinals in 2015.

Barnes was hired to take over at ECU on June 27, 2016. She quickly hit the road to recruit and and build the Pirates’ roster from scratch.

The team’s scrimmages at ODU came after a few weeks of fall workouts, and they were followed by more practices and scrimmages. Barnes said this time was vital to the Pirates and their progression as a new team.

“You hear coaches always talk about leadership and that was a fear of mine in that we didn’t really have upperclassmen who had been through this,” Barnes said. “You always expect it from (coaches), but the fact that we have young women who are willing to step up and speak up to their peers as freshmen was really positive.”

Without an established hierarchy, Barnes said fall practices really did evolve and remain interesting and almost unpredictable from day to day.

“It was kind of like a social experiment every day,” she said.

The coach pointed to freshman midfielder Megan Pallozzi from Ellicott City, Md., as a positive all-around influence. Sophomore Emma Bowman, an Oregon transfer, is a key player and she shined during scrimmages.

That pair and its other young teammates faced 2016 national champ and Barnes’ alma mater in North Carolina, along with other top-tier programs, during the fall.

“At no point during any of those competitions did we stop hustling,” Barnes said. “We gave it our all, and that was probably my biggest positive takeaway. We were just hustlers.”

The team will regroup in early January for workouts consisting mainly of running and lifting weights. The first day nationally for official preseason practice is Jan. 20.

Before then, the Pirates will continue to implement more team strategies and principles to get ready for the season. They will play as an independent in their initial 17-game campaign before joining the American Athletic Conference in 2019.

“They will have a little bit of homework over (Christmas) break to think about some things that will be able to resonate with this program hopefully for years to come,” Barnes said. “That’s something when we get back that we want to talk about, because it’s good to have those touchstones and the core values in your mind while you are training for your season.”

Contact Ronnie Woodward at rwoodward@reflector.com, 252-329-9592 and follow @RonnieW11 on Twitter.

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