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ECU lacrosse swings into second season

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East Carolina's Camryn Pennypacker takes a shot during practice on Jan. 15, 2019. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Nathan Summers
The Daily Reflector

Friday, January 18, 2019

Last year, East Carolina women’s lacrosse was new enough that the team and its coaches did not yet know what they didn’t know.

As the team’s second-ever season is set to begin, so too is a whole new understanding of the game and its many nuances at the top college level. The 2018 squad, which finished 2-15, was a full fleet of inexperienced freshmen, but second-year coach Amanda Barnes Moore thinks last year’s experience is proving to be a great teacher in advance of the team’s season opener at home on Feb. 8 against Winthrop.

“A year makes all the difference, and having returners to a program that know what to expect from a Division I lacrosse season has made a huge difference both in our fall training and so far this spring,” Moore said after a practice earlier this week.

Moore’s team has not only layered in a whole new crop of freshmen behind last year’s, but the coach and her staff have now had a full calendar routine with the players and have seen the team begin to find its way from a competitive standpoint.

The ECU roster now boasts 15 sophomores, a pair of juniors and 12 new freshmen.

“I think just the amount of youth that we had, we as coaches really had to exercise a lot of patience and understanding, and celebrating those small victories,” Moore said of last season. “I know that it was a goal to get better at every practice and get better every game, and I felt like we did that. But it was very hard as a competitive person and a very competitive staff, having achieved a lot of success as players and also as coaches at other programs, to not measure our success in the wins and losses.”

Those wins were hard to find.

The team’s inaugural victory actually came in its third match on the road at Gardner-Webb, a team the Pirates will host in their second game on Feb. 10. But the lone other victory came against Delaware State, leaving plenty to work toward this season.

“This year, the goal of ours is to compete, and that’s something that we’re constantly urging our players to compete, that we’re competing against each other in practice and competing in games,” Moore said of the Pirates, who will embark on their first season of American Athletic Conference play this year after a rookie season as an independent. “We’re experienced playing Temple and Cincinnati. We were fortunate enough to get them on the schedule in our independent season. But certainly, adding the likes of Vanderbilt and the University of Florida, who’s primarily a top-five program, and we also added UNC to our schedule who was a Final Four contender last year, it has really upped the ante for our growing program.”

Not surprisingly, Moore said the greatest challenges last year in producing more wins was the adjustment to the speed and physical nature of the college game for a team entirely comprised of first-year players.

The task of creating worthy experience and depth is a big one, but Moore said the Pirates’ new recruiting class was forged with the team’s deficiencies in mind.

“Typically on any given team, you’ve got upperclassmen to help cover them for those mistakes,” Moore said of last season’s growing pains. “When you’ve got a whole team of freshmen out on the field, it just doubles your mistakes.

“In the 2018 season, we immediately identified that we were low depth-wise in our midfield, and that something that after playing a full season and seeing what players were capable of, we were able to adjust some of their positioning and be able to take the time to teach them that new position this fall. So we did make some adjustments both with personnel, moving them to the midfield, that we thought were more enduring and that they could learn to play both ends of the ball.”

ECU opens its five-game AAC slate on March 31 at home against Vanderbilt.

Contact Nathan Summers at nsummers@reflector.com, 252-329-9595 and follow @NateSumm99 on Twitter.

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