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For the third consecutive postseason, East Carolina will play in the women’s version of the National Invitational Tournament.
The WNIT features a 64-team field, and Pirate coach Heather Macy thinks she has a team that can win it all.
“We are thrilled to be invited to the WNIT,” said Macy at a press conference held just outside the women’s practice facility on campus. “Our program is a two-feet-in program. That’s a total commitment in our program. Now we have progressed that into a two-feet-forward vision statement. Making postseason play for three consecutive years is great, but we aren’t just looking to participate in this tournament. This is a situation we are going into with a narrow focus to win the WNIT.”
Those are bold words for sure. Macy has never bowed down to any challenge. She is building a program her way, and she hopes to look back at this experience as another block in that final project down the road.
“We haven’t been shy at all to talk about what our program’s goal is, and that’s to make the NCAA tournament,” she explained. “These are definitely progressive steps. Some of our kids will be playing in their third NIT tournament, and they have a much better understanding how the tournament is run, the format and all of that.”
The Pirate players were also unabashedly enthusiastic, but perhaps more so with the opportunity to host in the WNIT.
“I was so excited,” said All-American Athletic Conference first team selection Jada Payne. “I was jumping up and down screaming. My teammate Akia (Trice) was with me and we were both so excited, especially since we get to play at home.”
The Pirates' WNIT opponent in this first round is Radford. The Highlanders were 17-13 on the year and 14-6 as the runner-ups in the Big South.
“They are a basketball team that we are going to have to stop in transition,” said Macy. “They do a great job with their guards and they get out and get going. They can really shoot it. The key is going to be for us to control and play our tempo in the game.”
The teams will tip off in Williams Arena at Minges Coliseum on Wednesday night at 7 p.m.
Macy’s squad has dropped its first game in the WNIT the past two seasons. Both of those games were on the road. This time the Pirates are at home. Macy thinks the home game, and the experience in the AAC, will pay dividends in the WNIT.
“The American Athletic Conference is an incredible league,” said Macy. “You are talking about six teams in postseason play right now. So this is a league that gets you prepared for March, and that’s when you want to be playing.”
Macy concluded with a message to the Pirate Nation on how important it is to get a good crowd out to support her team.
“It’s real important,” Macy said emphatically. “I think that women’s basketball and us becoming a significant contender on a national level, part of that is your fan support. Part of that is Pirate Nation, what we brag on, coming out and giving us a home court advantage. It’s one thing for us to come out and shoot on our own rims and sleep in our own beds, but it’s a whole other ball game when it’s tied and the other team can’t communicate to their bench. Or we are on a run and it’s so loud that the other team has to call a timeout.
"We need for everyone to come out, be loud, be aggressive and enjoy that you get to see your women’s basketball team at home at least one more time.”
If Macy has her way and this ECU team can continue to win, Pirate Nation could get several opportunities to show that support.
|PAGE UPDATED 03/17/15 08:03 PM|