After being eliminated from conference tournament contention, the East Carolina seniors can focus solely on their legacies as they wrap up their season on Sunday.
The women's soccer program will say goodbye to leading scorer and point producer Lana Spitler, third leading scorer Autumn Berry, defender Caitlin Hite and midfielders Kelsey Reeves and Colleen Knier. Each senior has overcome adversity or injuries that forced them to play alternative roles than what they were used to while recovering.
Spitler is from Pennsylvania and followed in her sister's footsteps when deciding to come play for the Pirates. She is the leading scorer for the program.
Spitler has lead the team in multiple games with most shots on goals, with her highest being 12 earlier this season. She has numerous multiple point games this season with an offense that has struggled to produce, making her the most valuable player on the Pirates roster.
Without her, the Pirates struggles would go beyond winning games. ECU will have to fill the gap next year in finding one or more players that can make up for scoring chances.
"Lana is a great attacking player that can create her own shot off the dribble,” ECU head coach Rob Donnenwirth said. “She had to battle some health issues this year that affected her fitness, but she's a quiet leader that always set the benchmark for fitness tests."
Berry, from Virginia, started all contests during the 2015 season and logged a record-setting 1,868 minutes, which accumulates to playing the entirety of all contests except for three. An injury set her back for her senior season but still saw action in a majority of contests while logging the third most points for the Pirates during the season.
"Autumn is a great attacking presence at left back. She's improved her one-on-one defending abilities through her years,” Donnenwirth said. “She is very confident with her offensive skillset and was a player opponents needed to game plan for."
Hite is also from Virginia and helped the Pirates hold opponents to a .098 shooting percentage and was a key component of the defensive line who helped post nine shutouts in her junior season. Like Spitler, Hite was named to conference teams throughout her career. During her freshman season Hite became the first freshman in program history to be named First Team All-Conference USA.
“Caitlin is a big-play defender in the back with great speed, and has shown so much toughness dealing with hip injuries leading to a repair of a torn labrum,” Donnenwirth said.
Hailing from Raleigh, Reeves has started in numerous matches in her four-year career as a Pirate and logged over 1,000 minutes like Berry. Reeves’ career struggled after suffering a season-ending injury in her freshman year.
Since then, she proved to be better than most could have predicted and recovered to continue sporting a jersey for the Pirates. Though her statistics don’t show numerous points, her role was to control tempo and limit goals against, which she has done beyond success.
"Kelsey had an outstanding freshman year cut short due to a knee injury, but she was always committed to working hard and provided us with a great work rate on the flanks,” Donnenwirth said.
Finally, Knier is from New Jersey and has been used in high-intensity games against ranked opponents across her career. She logged minutes in contests against teams such as No. 3 Virginia Tech where she recorded shots that resulted in goals and chances that helped the Pirates make a name for themselves. Knier’s consistency made the Pirates less of underdogs when she took the field, and that hard work made her a starter in every game this year.
"Colleen [Knier] is one of the types of players that makes a coach proud. She wasn't rewarded with playing time her first three years but never gave up,” Donnenwirth said. “She has started every game this year at center back and has been one of our most consistent players."
The Pirates play Temple today at 7 p.m. and then face top-ranked Connecticut on senior night, making for an exciting conclusion to their season while looking to pick up their first conference win at home Sunday.