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Roundup: Pirates spring into more golf action

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East Carolina golfer Blake Taylor

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By RONNIE WOODWARD
The Daily Reflector

Monday, February 4, 2019

The spring season for East Carolina golf officially began Sunday when the ECU women played their opening round at the UCF Challenge.

Here is an updated look at both of the Pirate golf teams as they are entering the most important part of their seasons:

Women and the bubble

Important opportunities for the East Carolina’s women’s team to improve on its No. 63 national ranking begin with playing in the UCF Challenge, an event that will conclude Tuesday.

Coach Kevin Williams said the key to the spring for his Pirates is to beat teams ranked ahead of ECU.

Only two out of 16 squads at the UCF Challenge are ranked behind East Carolina. Also, in addition to ECU and the host Knights, American Athletic Conference clubs SMU and Tulane are at the Orlando tournament.

“I feel good about our team and you have to beat people, and that’s what I’ve been telling the girls,” Williams said during a recent phone interview. “Our spring schedule is the strongest it has ever been, so the opportunity is there for us to move up and actually move up significantly if we play pretty well. … We don’t have to beat them all, but beat enough of them because we need to improve our win-loss record, there’s no doubt about that, and get our ranking up.”

The Pirates have made the NCAA regionals in 12 of the last 16 years, including in 2018.

A couple of costly things happened in the fall, beginning with Hurricane Florence leading to the cancellation of the Pirate Collegiate Classic in Greenville. ECU then placed 15th out of 15 teams at the Illini Women’s Invitational in Chicago.

“We finished with our first losing record ever in the fall, at 25-26, but obviously if we played our home tournament then we would have had a winning record,” Williams said. “But we didn’t, and it’s the schedule we played. You have to do better with the schedule you play.”

The team’s leading players in the fall were Dorthea Forbrigd and Carley Cox, who are both upperclassmen and were all-AAC selections last year.

Taylor pacing Pirates

Blake Taylor played in the PGA Greenbrier Classic last July and carried his momentum into his junior season at East Carolina.

The spring season begins today for the Pirates, in Ponte Vedra Beach Fla., and Taylor comes in having finished in third place in each of ECU’s last three tournaments. That includes shooting 69-68-69 for a 10-under-par and third at the N.C. State Wolfpack Intercollegiate in October.

“He had a wonderful fall season,” ECU coach Andrew Sapp said. “He has been fighting to get that win, which has been great to see, and I think that has helped inspire some of our other guys over the winter. ... It’s been fun to see Blake’s progression this year and he’s improved pretty much every semester he has been here, which is a credit to him.”

Sapp also lauded previously injured Patrick Stephenson, who is a steady putter and is looking to keep his momentum rolling.

Both of the Pirate golf teams will play in Puerto Rico in the coming weeks.

The men travel there Feb. 17-19 and then will have a spring highlight when they host the ECU Intercollegiate at Brook Valley County Club on March 4 and 5. The American championships are in April.

“We play in a sport unlike so many others, where you have home and away events, because we get just one tournament in front of our home crowd and a home golf course,” Sapp said. “That will be exciting and a great opportunity for our guys to play out at Brook Valley, which we play quite often. Admission is free and that should be a huge home-course advantage and there will be 12 teams playing and we are defending champions, so there is a lot going into it this year.”

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

Horton wins indoors

Hakeem Horton won a long jump individual title, clearing 7.38 meters, as part of East Carolina track and field’s indoor season split squad weekend. ECU competed in the Doc Hale Elite Meet at Virginia Tech and the Camel City Invitational in Winston-Salem.

Horton also took second place in the 200-meter dash in 21.67 seconds.

Mackenzie Whitaker posted the fourth-best women’s indoor long jump mark in program history, turning in a total of 5.98.

In Winston-Salem, Pirate freshman Anna Bristle crossed the finish line in the 3,000-meter run in 9:48.89 for the third-fastest women’s indoor 3,000m showing in school history. Grace Sullivan was fourth in the mile (4:54.83).

Tennis split

East Carolina’s men’s tennis team began its weekend with a 7-0 rout of George Mason on Friday before a 4-3 loss to UNC Asheville on Sunday.

Both matches were held at the ECU Indoor Tennis Facility, where the Pirates (5-1) will look to continue their hot start to the season next weekend when they host Richmond (Friday) and Appalachian State (Sunday). 

Four of the six singles matches versus George Mason lasted two sets. including Vlad Anghel’s 6-3, 6-1 victory at No. 2. The No. 1 matchup was tight, with Diogo Marques prevailing 5-7, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5.

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