The Bradsher Beat
Wednesday, December 7,
By Bethany Bradsher
their diehard fans primed for VCU
All rights reserved.
Most of the players on the
Lady Pirates basketball team weren’t around for the first seven games of
their current home winning streak, which is all the more reason for them
to stretch it out.
This squad, which
features a large crop of newcomers including sophomore transfer Kristine
Mial and former Clemson player Bryelle Smith, is 5-2, a record that is
underscored by coach Heather Macy and her players’ assertions that they
seem to improve every day.
Armed with a 12-game
home winning streak and returning starters Shala Hodges and Chareya
Smith, who are each averaging double-doubles for the season, East
Carolina will face one of its more daunting non-conference opponents —
Virginia Commonwealth — tonight at Minges.
“What’s so great
about this team is how hard they work and how committed they are to
being good,” Macy said. “They just come every single day to practice and
keep getting better and better and better.”
The spirited Minges
atmosphere has come as a surprise to newcomers like Kristine Mial, a
standout performer for the Pirates who was a second-team junior college
All-American at Frederick Community College. Mial, a 5-9 forward,
notched 16 points and 11 points against Monmouth for her first
double-double as a Pirate. Wins like that one have given Mial a great
deal of confidence in her new home fans.
“It’s not just having
people in the stands; it’s recognizing the people in the stands,” Mial
said. “I guess I didn’t know what to expect when I got here.”
“We have a really
great atmosphere from our band, to cheerleaders and the dance team to
the fans, everybody makes it an event,” Macy said.
Chapple, one of the top scoring freshmen on the ECU roster, has noticed
that the team’s fans are knowledgeable and passionate about the Lady
Pirates, not just ECU or basketball in general. That dynamic makes them
play harder because of the excitement in the stands and also because
they feel that they owe it to the crowd to provide something to
“It’s just really
exciting to play in front of fans who are there to support you,” Chapple
said. “We’re just looking forward to really showing people what we can
The VCU matchup will
provide a legitimate test, because not only did the Rams make the NIT
field last year, they are returning stellar seniors Courtney Hurt and
Andrea Barbour. Hurt, who has scored three consecutive double-doubles
and is on the Naismith Watch List for the top 50 women’s players in the
“They’re a postseason
team from a year ago and have two of the most dominant players that
we’ll see this year in scoring and rebounding,” Macy said. “We’ll be
facing two really large challenges. They’re much bigger than we are, and
we’re really going to need to control the tempo.”
Win or lose, the
Pirates will have to take a break from the comfort of home court with
trips to two holiday tournaments — the Beach Ball Classic in Myrtle
Beach and the Terrapin Classic in Maryland. After those trips, it’s only
a matter of weeks before the Conference USA slate begins, and the
commencement of those crucial games would be an ideal time for this team
to answer all of its question and move forward on the momentum of every
athlete’s greatest strengths.
Chapple might be new
to Division I play, but she has seen enough of her Pirates and their
opponents to believe that she is playing for a team that has all of the
right building blocks to assemble something great.
“Me and my teammates
have great chemistry, and it’s been really easy to transfer that onto
the floor,” Chapple said. “We have so many threats on defense and
offense, and we’re just blessed to have such a deep bench.”
E-mail Brian Bailey.
01/03/12 02:39 AM.