Aug 22, 2013
GREENVILLE, N.C. --- The East Carolina soccer team opens its 20th season when it visits Davidson and Elon this weekend. The Pirates will face the Wildcats on Friday, Aug. 23 at 7 p.m. before taking on the Phoenix Sunday, Aug. 25 at 2 p.m.
The Pirates return 15 letterwinners, including seven starters from last year's 10-7-3 squad that finished fourth in Conference USA with a 6-2-3 record.
The 2013 team will be one of the youngest in coach Rob Donnenwirth's 15 years at the helm of the program. The roster features 11 freshmen, five sophomores, 11 juniors and two seniors.
"Overall I've been happy with our preseason," Donnenwirth said. "We have 13 new players that are here this fall, so a lot of it was integrating them into what we're doing and having them understand what we're doing.
"The upperclassmen did a good job coming in and being prepared. There is a lot of good competition for spots, maybe more so than previous years and that will make us better."
Junior Lexi Miller, who was named a Conference USA player to watch, is the Pirates' top returning goal scorer. She netted three goals last season and has five in her career. Junior Stephanie Seagrave and sophomore Kendall Frey are the only other returnees to have scored multiple goals in 2012, finding the back of the net twice each.
East Carolina will open the season against a team pick to finish fourth in the Southern Conference with 21 returning letterwinners, including 10 starters. Greg Ashton enters his 10th season as head coach after guiding the Wildcats to a 7-10-3 record a year ago.
"Davidson is a very good team and particularly tough at home," said Donnenwirth, who is one victory shy of 200 career triumphs. "They have a very experienced group who likes to pressure and their forwards can cause some problems. They'll be a good test for us.
The Pirates and Wildcats will be meeting for the third consecutive season and fifth time overall. ECU is 4-0 all-time against Davidson, recording wins at Alumni Stadium in 1997 and 2011.
Sunday's match against Elon will be the first between the instate foes since 2003. The Pirates hold a 6-1-0 all-time advantage in the series. The Phoenix was tabbed fifth in the preseason Southern Conference coaches' poll.
"The main thing for our younger players is to learn how to deal with the physicality of the college game," Donnenwirth stated. "For our young group we're going to have to find ways to break those teams down in the attack."