It was fun to be a novelty for a little while — during those two years when East Carolina lacrosse was brand-new and everyone wanted to talk about being a pioneer and fielding a Division I sport with mostly freshmen.
But as she leads her team into their third season, head coach Amanda Moore has found something more enduring to talk about — experienced leadership and an established culture being passed down from veterans to newcomers.
“For us to have leadership with experience in play, on the field and off the field, just in terms of promoting our team culture and holding a standard of behavior, even when our coaches aren’t there, is really beneficial,” Moore said. “I think we have a large buy-in, just in terms of doing the right thing, doing the extra what we need to do to have comprehensive excellence on and off the field. We have a lot of players striving for that.”
Two-thirds of the coaching staff have been with the program since it started in 2018, and those coaches recruited all of the players, which has created an exceptional communication for the squad that includes two seniors, fifteen juniors, nine sophomores and nine freshmen.
After helping lead her team to a 2-1 record so far, junior Megan Pallozzi, one of the team’s top scorers for the past two seasons, said she can already see that the team has greater potential to excel this season because of the character and leadership on the roster.
“This weekend we moved the ball really well, and that’s really the key to great play — keeping the ball in our sticks, and playing for each other and with each other,” Pallozzi said. “I think a lot of people were really playing selfless this weekend.”
After losing 14-11 in their season opener loss at Furman, the Pirates turned things around with a 19-9 win at Presbyterian and a 20-5 home victory over Wofford. The Wofford game, Moore said, was the closest thing to a complete game she has seen her team put together yet, and that decisive result showed the strengths of a team that will need every advantage to prevail over the daunting opponents ahead.
In March alone, the Pirates will travel to Duke (March 10), North Carolina (March 23) and play host to Florida (March 28) in the conference opener. Because so few American Athletic Conference schools field lacrosse teams, the conference looks very different for this sport, including Florida, Vanderbilt, Connecticut, Temple and Cincinnati. The Gators will present a particularly steep challenge, Moore said, since they defeated Maryland on Saturday to break the Terrapins’ 86-game winning streak.
The ECU squad is using the full week between games — they play at Campbell on Saturday and return home to face Longwood on Wednesday — to reinforce the weak spots the first three games revealed and to continue to instill the high competitive standards that the Pirates have adopted from the first moment they helped pair the words “Pirate” and “lacrosse” two years ago.
“We like to start the year talking about things we want to uphold throughout the season, like accountability, and leadership, and responsibility,” said junior defender Amy Jarvis. “So that’s definitely helped shape the culture of our team. This week we’ve talked about how the win should fuel us to get better, how we can’t get complacent, but we need to work that much harder.”
One top freshman who has been a beneficiary of that seasoned leadership is attacker Caroline Kimel, a Durham native whose mother Kerstin Kimel has been the head women’s lacrosse coach at Duke for 24 years. Kimel, who notched an assist against Furman and two draw controls in the Wofford win, said her decision to become a Pirate was driven partly by the coaching staff’s commitment and partly by the uncommon loyalty of the ECU fan base.
“It’s just a credit to Greenville,” she said. “When I first came here, I really took notice of Greenville and Pirate Nation. The Pirate Nation really stuck with me. I knew as soon as I set foot on this campus that this is where I wanted to go.”