NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, March 2,
By Bethany Bradsher
Adversity-tested Lady Pirates
(ECU SID image)
All rights reserved.
old English proverb that says, “A smooth sea never made a skillful mariner.”
If that’s true, the Lady Pirates basketball team should be poised to
navigate whatever waters the postseason might bring.
A year ago,
the East Carolina squad was preparing for a Conference USA tournament where
they would place second and
earn a spot in the Women’s NIT tournament.
advanced to the second round in the
Leadership-wise, the Lady Pirates were in a comfortable place, taking
direction from Sharon Baldwin-Tener in her eighth year at the helm.
after their loss to Maryland in the WNIT, Baldwin-Tener announced that she
leaving for Georgia State. Ten days
after that bombshell,
Wes Moore was introduced as the new
Lady Pirates’ leader, and two days later he announced that he had changed
his mind and would stay at UT-Chattanooga.
after Moore’s flip-flop, another new coach — Heather Macy —
took her place at the Pirate podium
and assured fans and players that she was committed to ECU for the long
Pirate players, bruised by the turbulent coaching carousel, started the long
process of learning a new scheme under a new leader.
It took some
time to relax and trust the new staff, and they tested out their tenuous new
unity when the season opened in November. They traveled extensively in
December, stumbled some in the early C-USA slate and then tried to settle
into a rhythm, which at its best resulted in a three-game winning streak.
experienced team with depth at all positions, but throughout the season
injuries and illnesses have created even more turbulence and interrupted
ECU’s momentum. Chareya Smith, Kim Gay, Ariana Jackson, Crystal Wilson and
Kelly Smith all missed multiple games this season because of injuries, Macy
said, and sickness also took a toll. Several steps forward and few steps
back resulted in slowed progress and more than a little bit of frustration.
spring is in the air, most of the injured players are healed up, and the
team has an established itself as an immovable force at home in Minges
Coliseum. Heading into their final game at UAB and the C-USA championships
in El Paso, the Lady Pirates can legitimately lay claim to that magical
athletic trend of playing their best when it matters most.
peaking at the right time, that’s for sure,” said Macy, whose team stands at
14-14 overall and 8-7 in the conference. “You want to be playing your best
basketball this time of year.”
of how much resiliency the Lady Pirates have gained this season was their
reaction to Sunday’s contest against Marshall, a sloppy contest where
neither team had an easy time finding the basket. The stat sheets looked
troublesome, but ECU pressed on and pulled out the victory on the Senior Day
that celebrated three pillars, Allison Spivey, Kim Gay and Kelly Smith. It
was the Lady Pirates' seventh straight victory at home.
The rest of
their slate is in Alabama and Texas, but Macy is looking forward to the more
solid, mature group that she can lead on those adventures. They have been
sharpened by the adversity, been made into expert sailors by the inclement
weather that battered their program last year.
They have a
good chance of taking fourth or fifth in the conference and running through
the C-USA tournament with confidence, Macy said. Women’s basketball has
become one of the ECU programs that feels like it belongs in the postseason,
and last year was a sturdy building block indeed.
momentum, even from afar, will be the fans that have given ECU bragging
rights as the team with the largest home attendance in the conference.
Sunday’s Marshall game drew 2,861, the 10th largest crowd in the program’s
history. That factor, along with healthier players and strong senior
leadership, will act as buoys to mark the way on the sea voyage ahead, which
Lady Pirate fans hope extends for a long time.
E-mail Bethany Bradsher
Bethany Bradsher Archives
03/30/2011 12:47 AM