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Senior forward Jenna Dages battles against a VCU defender during Friday's fall exhibition game.

The East Carolina University women’s soccer team took on its first opponent in a scrimmage at home to open up their fall season against the Virginia Commonwealth Rams on Friday night in Johnson Stadium.

A hard fought battle between the two teams caused it to be a challenge for both defenses, but ECU was able to fight off the Rams in a 1-0 win with a goal from senior forward Jenna Dages.

Since it was a scrimmage, the teams played three 30 minute periods instead of the standard 45 minute halves. This allowed both teams to really move into their strides going into the new season.

"First game against an opponent and we were very excited to get out and play against someone else for the first time this year," head coach Jason Hamilton said.

The first period did not come with any success for either team. However, the Rams were able to get four shots off, compared to one for the Pirates. Even though the first period had ended, it seemed like the Rams had an early advantage.

Moving into the second, the game started to open up as the offenses began to break through. There was one great chance by ECU off of a corner kick that junior Kim Sanford got her head onto, but it bounced off of the crossbar. This would be the best chance either team would get until ECU was able to win another corner.

Junior Erin Mikalsen went to take the corner as both teams battled in the box. The kick was taken and Dages got up over everyone with a lofted headed that beat the VCU goalies into the upper 90. This would be the only goal of the game and a crucial one.

"Set-pieces are something that we know we have to win that battle each and every game," Hamilton said. "We talked about not giving them anything off any dead ball situation and then if we can score off it, that's just a bonus and that's exactly what happened today. Erin served a great ball and Jenna climbed up there and put the ball into the back of the goal."

The lone goal came at the 45:34 mark, signaling about 15 minutes left to play in the second period and 30 more minutes in the third to end the game. The Pirates defense made an outstanding effort to see it that the Rams would not make an equalizing goal. Pirates sophomore goalkeeper Meaghan Haley was a big part of the success of the defense. She was able to make two back-to-back stops to end the second period and stopped two more in the final five minutes of play to close out the contest.

The Pirates will officially kick off their season on Thursday against the George Mason Patriots at home at 7 pm. The Pirates and the Patriots are no strangers as they have played each other three times, with ECU claiming two victories.

This will be Hamilton’s second year as head coach as he has been doing well for a second year coach. Last year he was able to give the Pirates their first winning record in three years, and hopes to keep that going in 2019. With that being said, the Pirates do have a difficult upcoming season that will test its determination.

ECU will move to take on the Richmond Pirates as well as the Virginia Cavaliers. The last time that the Pirates played the Spiders was last season, and ECU was able to take full control with a 3-0 victory. It was a different story against the Cavaliers two seasons ago when they and the Pirates tied 1-1.

The Pirates will then go into their next weeks worth of games against Radford University and the University of North Carolina at Wilmington. In its last matchup with Radford, ECU pulled out a 5-0 victory and shut out UNCW by a score of 3-0 in 2017.

The Pirates’ next opponents are the Pirates of Hampton University and Monarchs of Old Dominion University on Sept. 8 and Sept. 12, respectively. ECU has never faced Hampton but this will be a new opportunity to figure out whether they have to change their style of play or not. On the other hand, ODU and ECU have met a whopping 11 times. Their last match up was a year ago and ended in a tie. ECU has six wins over ODU’s three, leaving the last two as ties.

For their last three games of non-conference play, ECU is set to face the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, North Carolina State University and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

The Pirates defeated the 49ers 3-0 in their match-up last season and have won six of the nine games they have played against each other. NC State should be another challenging game for the Pirates as the last time they kicked off the game ended in a 1-1 tie. ECU has a losing record of 1-2-2 against NC State. The Pirates were only able to defeat Greensboro 1-0 in their last season match-up, but still have a winning record against them of 4-2.

This will then move the Pirates into conference play, beginning with the University of Connecticut on Sept. 26. Last year, the Pirates won 2-0 against them, but that was their first time doing so out of the six games they have played.

Moving forward they will take on Temple University and Tulsa University. The Pirates’ sparkling record of 3-1-1 against Temple is highlighted by a 1-0 victory 2018. ECU had a hard time against Tulsa last year, losing 3-1. However, they still own a winning record of 7-5-1.

The following week presents somewhat of a challenge for the Pirates as lost to both teams last year. The University of Memphis is a particularly tough club for ECU as their 2-14-2 overall record would indicate. An opposing narrative is true against the University of Houston, with ECU owning an 8-4-1 overall record, despite losing a hard fought game in two overtimes by a score of 3-2 in 2018.

The Pirates will then move forward into their last portion of conference play by facing Southern Methodist University and the University of Central Florida. ECU and SMU tied last year, and hold an overall losing record against them as well. Although they beat UCF last season, it was by a one goal margin, 2-1. ECU also has a losing record to UCF of 3-11-1.

ECU’s last week of conference play will see them take on the University of South Florida and the University of Cincinnati. USF will be another hard opponent as they lost to them last year by a score of 2-0 and have only beaten them once in eight tries. Cincinnati will be an entertaining match-up, with the Pirates having faced them only six total times. The Pirates defeated them in their last head-to-head, but only have beaten them two out of six match-ups.

The Pirates’ home opener will take place on Thursday at 7 p.m. at Johnson Stadium against George Mason University, with conference play set to open in September.

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