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  • Steven Grandy / WCU

Catamounts, Pirates Finish with Draw on Sunday

In a match that featured two distinctly different halves, a goal by Milla Syska in the 69th minute evened the match, and Western Carolina narrowly missed the decisive second goal in the final 15 minutes in a 1-1 tie against East Carolina on Sunday afternoon at the Catamount Soccer Complex.

Western Carolina is 2-2-3 on the season and East Carolina is 4-2-1.

“I’m super proud of the group and their mentality,” said head coach Chad Miller. “They didn’t lay down and we rolled up our sleeves, figured it out, and fought back. It was a good second half for us.”

East Carolina outshot the Catamounts 8-3 in the opening stanza and got on the board at the 35:24 mark. A throw-in from Catherine Holbrook was headed by Jazmin Ferguson and found Emma Sheehan, who found the back of the net for a 1-0 Pirate lead.

Arguably the biggest play of the match occurred with just over five minutes remaining in the first half. Following a foul in the box, East Carolina’s Abba Sowa attempted a penalty kick but WCU goalkeeper Leanne Trudel made a sprawling save to keep the Catamount deficit at a goal heading into halftime.

“The last 15 minutes of the first half we were really on the ropes and were lucky to not go into halftime down 3-0,” explained Miller. “That save by Leanne was a big momentum boost for our group and got us into halftime only down a goal. At halftime, we talked about making some adjustments to the way we’re playing and trying to dictate the play instead of allowing them to decide because I felt like in the first half we allowed them to get comfortable and dictate what they wanted to do.

"We changed formations in the second half and tried to press more and get them out of their comfort zone. They did a tremendous job. We told them at halftime, the next goal was the most important goal in the game.”

In the first seven minutes of the second half, WCU’s tactical change began to show as Naya Marcil took a ball from Isabella DeMarco and attempted a shot in the top right corner but it was knocked away by ECU goalkeeper Maeve English. The Catamounts evened the score at the 68:32 mark after Sarah Engen played a ball in the middle to Marcil, who tipped the ball to an open Syska for her first goal of the year.

WCU had a pair of chances in the waning moments as Maggie Lloyd’s shot just missed the right goal post with 11 minutes remaining and a shot by DeMarco sailed over the top right corner of the goal with 9:16 to play. Kirsten Hahn gained possession in the final five seconds but her shot attempt was blocked.

WCU outshot East Carolina 12-10 including a 9-2 margin in the second half. Narcil, Lloyd, Hahn, Syska, and DeMarco each attempted two shots apiece. Trudel made four stops, all coming in the first half.

The Catamounts conclude the nonconference portion of their schedule on Thursday, traveling to Presbyterian College for a 7 p.m. match against the Blue Hose.

“I’d like for us to continue building on the kind of way want to play and get some players some minutes so they’re ready for conference,” said Miller of what he’d like to accomplish in Thursday’s match. “To be successful in the league you have to be able to play different styles on different days. Today was an example of that where we got out of what we normally do and changed at halftime into something we haven’t done a ton. We’re building towards the most important nine games of the season (Southern Conference matches) and I like the growth we’ve had thus far.”

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