Here are a few of the things the East Carolina lacrosse team doesn’t have: A record book, veterans, rivalries, a losing record, or a winning record.
Of course, all of that is vastly overshadowed by what the lax Pirates do have — a secure place in the ECU history books as the members of the first Division I lacrosse team in school history.
The team, which has been practicing together since the fall, will blaze a trail Saturday with its first-ever game, a home contest against George Washington. With 23 freshmen, two sophomores, one junior and one senior, the team is young and eager to prove itself, and head coach Amanda Barnes predicts that the adrenaline for game day will be sky-high.
“I think they’re going to feel like they were shot out of cannon Saturday morning after pregame meal,” said Barnes, who played lacrosse at North Carolina and worked as an assistant coach at Duke for five years before taking the inaugural ECU position. “Right now it’s us trying to manage their excitement, make sure that they’re not getting too excited so that they’re wearing themselves out before the game.”
Barnes and her staff have emphasized fundamentals and an intimate knowledge of the team’s offense and defense so that even amid the intensity and emotion of an entire roster experiencing its first Division I game they will be able to fall back on the foundations of their game, she said.
The strength and speed at the college level create a steep learning curve for any new player, but they will all be experiencing that intensity at the same time on Saturday — along with the Pirate fans who come to experience the historic game.
“College lacrosse, especially at that elite Division I level, is a fast-paced sport,” she said. “It’s fun, there’s lots of scoring. It’s our nation’s fastest growing sport, and it’s thriving in this area, so it will just be great to come out and support the Pirates and watch lacrosse for the first time here.”
The team has already formed close bonds through the preseason, but freshman midfielder Casey Sullivan said that she is looking forward to seeing how the Pirates click when they finally face an actual opponent. One factor that attracted Sullivan and her teammates was the prospect of playing significant minutes as freshmen.
“The coaches just made this feel like a crazy new journey, and they were really welcoming,” Sullivan said. “They were like, ‘This is a new experience, and we feel like you guys as a team can take this challenge and run with it.’ ”
Megan Pallozzi, also a freshman midfielder, said that she and her teammates have bonded on and off the field as they have embraced the opportunity to be ECU’s lacrosse ambassadors. Since they haven’t yet played a game they know that their Pirate classmates have probably never watched one, so they have done their best to spread the word to attract a fan base to Johnson Stadium.
“I think people are really excited for it,” Pallozzi said. “Some of the people I’ve talked to — they don’t really know what it is — but they’re excited to come check it out.”
A first game is a tremendous milestone, but Barnes and the Pirates are all too aware that they will need to focus on continuing improvement to prepare for a second, third, fourth game and on through the schedule, which will conclude on May 6 with a game at Duke.
ECU will have six days to evaluate lineups and plays between the George Washington game and a contest at Winthrop on Feb. Then the team will have to become accustomed to a quick transition when it faces Gardner-Webb two days later.
“Our ability to bounce back, or maybe make adjustments in our game plan, or maybe make changes in our personnel, will be really important,” Barnes said. “Looking ahead, we’ve got a lot of quick turnarounds that we’re going to have to recover our bodies and switch gears and make adjustments quickly.”