NEWS, NOTES &
The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
By Bethany Bradsher
A salute to ECU's Olympic
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The house lights go down, and the big screen
is emblazoned with purple and gold words reading, “Pirate Olympic Sports:
More Than One Shining Moment.” What follows is a highlight reel from every
corner of the East Carolina athletic universe over the course of the
SOCCER: Senior Kimmy Cummings takes aim
from the right flank during the first round of the Conference USA
Championships. The ball ricochets off of the left post and lands in the goal
to give ECU a 1-0 lead that sets the tone for the program's first-ever
victory over Central Florida. The Pirates lost in the second round to
top-seeded Memphis, but the UCF win was a showpiece for the program and for
Cummings, a former walk-on who ended her senior season with a team-high nine
goals, national academic accolades and an opportunity to play professional
soccer in Northern Ireland.
VOLLEYBALL: This segment starts with a
shot of Jeri Estes helping to coach the Russian national team during the
2004 Olympics, then cuts to a shot of Estes working with Pirate volleyball
players. One of the brightest spots for a squad that has only collected four
wins over the last two seasons, Estes spent six weeks assisting head coach
Pati Rolf last fall and committed to ECU as a full-time assistant in April.
Estes’s credentials include stints with both the U.S. and Russian national
teams as an assistant, as well as jobs in collegiate coaching, Russian
professional club coaching and a span as a head coach with the St. Louis
Quest in the United States Professional Volleyball League.
SWIMMING AND DIVING: As the spotlight
shifts to the pool, viewers are treated to a quick-fire montage of
highlights from the C-USA Championship Meet, which was the most successful
conference final in Rick Kobe’s three decades at the helm of the program.
Over four days in Houston, ECU swimmers set 17 varsity and 14 freshman
records and saw 18 athletes honored as All-Conference USA for their
performances. Two promising freshmen, Rokas Cepulis and Nikola Simic,
combined to make all-conference in nine total events. Danielle Morrin was
the top newcomer for the women, earning medals in both the 200 butterfly and
the 400 individual medley.
TRACK AND FIELD: With three distinct
seasons and 80 athletes, the Pirate track and field squads have a plethora
of bright spots to choose from. But no moment left a more indelible memory
than this shot: The women’s indoor squad, holding a Conference USA trophy
aloft. To cap off that milestone, in which the Lady Pirates outscored
defending champion UCF 123-113.5 to win the title, head coach Curt Kraft was
named C-USA Indoor Women’s Coach of the Year. The final 10 points of the
meet, which clinched the crown, came from the 4X400 relay team of Tyshonda
Hawkins, Tiffany Harris, Tania Minkins and Aiesha Goggins, who edged out UCF
in 3:39.00 for a new C-USA championship record.
MEN'S TENNIS: The screen fills with a
Belgian sophomore named Joran Vliegen, the winningest Pirate player this
season with an overall record of 14-6 and 3-1 in conference. Vliegen, the
No. 1 singles player for ECU, was so dominant during the middle of the
schedule that he defeated nine opponents in a row. In mid-March he was named
C-USA Men’s Tennis Athlete of the Week for a tri-meet against the College of
Charleston and UNC-Charlotte in which he won both the singles and doubles
matches in straight sets.
WOMEN'S TENNIS: The Lady Pirates
struggled to prevail against conference opponents this season, but one
triumphant moment belonged to junior Yilian Zhang, who won her No. 5 singles
match against UAB’s Menanteau Moolman to give her team a 4-3 edge in the
first round of the C-USA Tournament. Zhang’s tenacity gave ECU its lone
conference victory of the year, but her win helped pace the Pirates to carve
out a more competitive place next season.
SOFTBALL: This sport’s highlight reel
belongs to a Greenville native and a senior, a player who deserves a little
bit of face time for persevering and coming out as one of ECU’s top
performers in her final campaign. Suzanne Riggs, a D.H. Conley High School
product, was named Second Team All-Conference USA for a season in which she
led all hitters with a .325 batting average, eight home runs and 33 RBIs.
She also finished eighth on ECU’s all-time list for walks, finishing with 70
over her career.
WOMEN'S GOLF: With another senior who
proved the value of consistent play and strong leadership, the women’s golf
spotlight zooms in on Amy Otteson, a player who carded seven top-20 finishes
over her final season and finished tied for seventh at the C-USA
Championship Meet. Otteson was also the top ECU finisher at the NCAA Central
Regional, shooting an 18-over 234 for a share of 50th place.
MEN'S GOLF: For this film’s big ending,
look no further than the only Pirate team to make its sport’s national
tournament. The glamour shot would depict the ECU golfers on a plane to
beautiful Pacific Palisades, CA, to the spectacular but humbling Riviera
Country Club. As the only team from North or South Carolina to even make the
field of 30, the Pirates finished 26th in the event and gained a new
understanding of what it takes to compete at collegiate golf’s highest
echelon. The squad also said goodbye to its backbone, seniors Harold Varner,
David Watkins and Adam Stephenson.
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