I am a hopeless optimist, as illustrated by the nickname my coworkers had for me at one of my earliest newspaper jobs.
I wrote so many happy, positive feature stories at The Shelby Star in the early ‘90s that I was dubbed “Lite Brite.” Someone even brought the glowing peg board toy into the office one day and plugged it in as a decoration for my cubby.
So it is admittedly on brand for me to bring a message of optimism to the Pirate Nation this week. But even an Eeyore, if he looks closely at the things that are happening in and around the East Carolina Athletic Complex, would have to concede that it was a successful weekend by any measure.
A few of the highlights:
- American Athletic Conference officials confirmed that the football team’s effort in its 37-35 win over Old Dominion was special with the selections of defensive end Nate Harvey and placekicker Jake Verity as American Defensive and Special Teams Players of the Week. You have to go back to 2012, when it was Conference USA giving the honors, to find the last time two Pirate players were recognized in the same week. That year, it was linebacker Montese Overton for defense and punter Trent Tignor for special teams, coming off a 24-14 victory at Southern Miss.
- The Pirate volleyball team had a banner homestand with 3-1 wins over both Houston and Southern Methodist to launch the conference season. It was the first time that ECU, sparked by a career-high 18 kills from sophomore outside hitter Sydney Kleinman, has defeated the Mustangs in a decade.
- On the soccer pitch, the Pirates were one overtime period away from matching volleyball’s accomplishment, falling to Houston in a heartbreaking 3-2 result and turning around to topple SMU 2-1 for its first conference win of the season. Under new head coach Jason Hamilton, the Pirates are 6-4-2 with a Florida road trip to Central Florida and South Florida ahead.
- Competing in the Paul Short Run in Bethlehem, PA, senior cross country runner Grace Sullivan clocked the third fastest 6K time in program history, finishing the distance in 20:46 for seventh place. The race included 350 runners representing 41 college teams.
- The women’s tennis team won a total 18 singles matches against Western Carolina, Davidson and Campbell at the Battle of the Creek Invite in Buies Creek. Earlier in September, senior Celia Ruiz earned the No. 50 national singles ranking by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association, and along with partner Lisa Hofbauer she was ranked No. 43 in doubles.
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Those accomplishments, all logged during the same weekend, provide tantalizing foreshadowing as we consider the heart of the conference slate ahead for football, volleyball and soccer, as well as Sullivan’s opportunities to break more program and personal records, Ruiz’s potential in the matches ahead and, of course, the strong possibility of a Dec. 1 football matchup with N.C. State that has Pirate fans licking their lips.
It’s not a perfect moment in time, of course; the football team needs to work on its turnover margin and offensive effectiveness and the soccer team needs to make sure it doesn’t lose a two-goal lead in its home stadium again.
Challenges and frustrations are sure to be ahead in 2018 for the Pirate faithful, since true fans often feel the agony of the lows more acutely than the joy of the triumphs. We protect our hearts a bit, sure that the beautiful view from the rollercoaster seat is nothing more than a precursor to a stomach-dropping plummet.
But just for now, when the weather is sunny and, at long last, autumnal, and the highlight film from the weekend past is full of fabulous moments, I hope the Eeyores can take a cue from Lite Brite and sit in a patch of sun to enjoy the view from Pirate Country.