After back-to-back losing seasons for East Carolina University’s women’s basketball team, the Lady Pirates hope to get back to their success as their season opens tomorrow night inside Minges Coliseum against the University of South Carolina Upstate Spartans.
“We were aware after six graduating players last year that there was going to be an intermediate period of time,” head coach Heather Macy said. “We brought in a freshmen class that has some very talented players that had to learn of what they went through last season and were put in into really tough situations that they perhaps weren’t ready for. They learned on the fly, but now it’s paid dividends as we approach this year.”
This will be the first of the 13 non-conference games the Pirates will play to start the season, eight of which are at home, three on the road and two games in East Orange, New Jersey for the Seton Hall Thanksgiving Tournament on Nov. 25 and 26.
The Pirates will begin American Athletic Conference play on Dec. 30 at home against the University of Cincinnati, followed by a home game against No. 1 University of Connecticut Jan. 3.
UConn has been the dominant force since joining the AAC in 2014 with three NCAA championships in as many years. According to Macy, the Pirates are not thinking about the challenge the Huskies will present to them but instead, are just taking it at one game at a time.
“Right now, we are thinking about USC Upstate and that’s every single day of us just thinking about the next opponent,” Macy said. “It’s a lot of us being better at what we do and attacking that process everyday.”
Younger athletes will have more opportunities to make a bigger impact on the court, particularly junior guard Alex Frazier.
Last season, Frazier started in 15 of the team’s 30 games she played in, while averaging 20.9 minutes, 4.0 points and 2.3 rebounds per game. Some of Frazier’s milestones achieved last year include: a career-high 14 points in the season finale against the University of Houston, a team-high six assists in a game four times and was named ECU’s Defensive-Player-of-the-Year.
Frazier said she believes she can take the step to be the leader of the team based on what she learned from the seniors last year. Macy added she thinks Frazier has made great strides in the offseason and is more than capable of leading the Pirates throughout the season.
“Frazier is the most experienced and hopefully she can be a steady point guard for us,” Macy said. “She knows what to expect, what’s about to happen and kind of give everyone else the benefit of having been there before.
Along with the talented, young players is senior center Thais Oliveira, who is the only returning senior and one of the two seniors on the team, along with forward Mickayla Sanders. Oliveira missed the first four games last season due to injury, and appeared in 25 total games, while playing on a minute restriction of 10.3 minutes per game, due to injury.
According to Oliveira, last season was a struggle because she was dealing with a foot injury all season long. However, Oliveira says she was able to learn and understand the system and has got better offensively around the free throw line and low post.
“(I have improved) a lot, especially after summer workouts because last year, I was a little bit delayed because of my injury,” Oliveira said. “I came here with an injury and had to get another surgery so I couldn't do a lot of running things. My offense around the free throw line is much better because of the summer workouts. I understand the system much better now this year, than last year as well.”
The Pirates will practice for a final time today as they prepare for the season opener tomorrow night against the Spartans with the hopes of starting the season off on the right track.