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WOODWARD: Youth movement provides timely spark

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East Carolina freshman guard Lashonda Monk scores against Cincinnati on Dec. 30, 2017.


The Daily Reflector

Saturday, February 24, 2018

The East Carolina women’s basketball team will honor three players for senior day today before taking on underdog Temple for the Pirates’ final home game of the season.

Mickayla Sanders, Thais Oliveira and Tania Pierre-Emile all transferred to ECU, which is consistent with previous recruiting tactics for the Pirates under eighth-year coach Heather Macy.

But looking on from the bench during the pregame festivities will be seven freshmen or sophomores, and most of them have played huge roles in the Pirates exceeding expectations with their 15-12 record and 7-7 mark in the American Athletic Conference. Sparked by these underclassmen during league play, ECU is tied for sixth place in the AAC standings despite being picked last in the American preseason poll.

This could be Macy’s best coaching job yet, and it has reversed the trajectory of the program after consecutive worrisome seasons.

The Pirates turning to their youth has showed promise for long-term sustainability and a shift from the quick-fix ways of the past, which was accompanied by great success but also high-risk pitfalls.

Jada Payne, Abria Trice, twins Britny and Whitny Edwards and others were great transfer gets for Macy and ECU, and it worked well in Conference USA. The Pirates even went 11-7 in their first year in the American in 2014-15 to cap the best three-year run in school history.

But the grind of the American proved that long-term vision was needed. Roster and staff turnover was costly for ECU, and things hit rock-bottom in 2017 when the Pirates finished 2-14 in the AAC for their lowest conference win total since 1994.

As the Pirates struggled to find wins on the court, Macy excelled in recruiting with an emphasis on finding the right high-schoolers.

Those recruits form the core of this team, from junior guard Alex Frazier to sophomore starter Dominique Claytor to freshmen scoring standouts Lashonda Monk, Necole Hope and Ariyana Williams.

ECU’s four freshmen are important now and their progression is paramount for the future. At various times this season, rookies have shown the ability to carry the team.

It has been impressive to watch, especially Monk and Hope as of late.

The seniors deserve their big moment today. All seniors do as they are on short time with their careers.

It’s also refreshing to see young East Carolina women’s basketball players who are bustling with potential and are years away from exhausting their eligibility.

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


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Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.


September 18, 2018

A win at a Pac-12 opponent, a shutout and then a record-setting outing on offense.

Cincinnati is 3-0 and riding high in the American Athletic Conference football ranks, following a Week 1 upset at UCLA with a 21-0 win against Miami of Ohio and then Saturday it beat Alabama A&M 63-7 behind a…

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September 17, 2018

The use of FaceTime on phones has been invaluable for the East Carolina football team, which avoided the direct hit of Hurricane Florence when it left for Orlando, Fla., last Wednesday but in many ways still is dealing with the aftermath.

That is especially true for players who have family in…


September 15, 2018

East Carolina football is under reconstruction.

For the first time last Saturday, some progress was evident on the field inside the Pirates' home stadium currently surrounded by scaffolding and temporary fencing. That is evidence of a bold $60 million upgrade in the works.

The men who wear the…


September 15, 2018

East Carolina was in last place for the first two installments of the American Athletic Conference writers’ power rankings, but after the Pirates’ 41-19 rout of North Carolina they moved up to ninth.

ECU (at Virginia Tech) and league frontrunner UCF (at N.C. State) had their games…


September 14, 2018

There was a play last Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium when a North Carolina safety was staring at an East Carolina backfield with two guys totaling 463 pounds on a third-and-3 play near midfield.

The UNC safety keyed on the wrong player during the read option, chasing after 6-foot-3, 236-pound…


September 12, 2018

East Carolina’s football team bused from Greenville to Orlando, Fla., on Wednesday and will remain there until its next game.

The Pirates’ game Saturday at Virginia Tech was canceled Tuesday because of Hurricane Florence and a release by ECU on Wednesday referenced issues of…


September 11, 2018

East Carolina’s football game scheduled for Saturday at Virginia Tech will not be played because of Hurricane Florence.

ECU sent out a release Tuesday at 4:45 p.m. stating that none of its teams will travel to games because of significant and imminent safety concerns. The release also said…


September 10, 2018

Like many people in North Carolina, the East Carolina football team is taking a day-to-day and even hour-to-hour approach as it transitions from Saturday’s rivalry win over North Carolina to this Saturday’s game at Virginia Tech with the threat of Hurricane Florence looming.…


September 10, 2018

Just two weeks into the season, the American Athletic Conference has already done its usual by knocking off some notable Power Five opposition, including three during the weekend.

Exemplifying that trend on Saturday was Houston’s high-flying trouncing of Pac-12 member Arizona. In that game,…

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September 10, 2018

As reporters waited in the postgame interview room Saturday after East Carolina’s 41-19 football win over North Carolina, walls could not block the noise coming from down the hallway of the Ward Sports Medicine Building.

It was difficult to decipher the exact words or chants, but members of…

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