Just When You Think
You Have It All Figured Out

by Josh Spence

As the old saying goes, “that’s why they play the game.”  After all, it’s the unpredictability that makes sports great.  Maybe more than ever, this past week in ECU sports personified the cliché. 

What a night for ECU basketball on Saturday.  Senior Night took on a whole new meaning at Minges Coliseum as East Carolina said good-bye to lone Senior Courtney Captain.  East Carolina hadn’t won on Senior Night since the ‘03-‘04 season, and hadn’t won a Division One contest since November.  That all changed on a magical Saturday night in Greenville.
It was destined to be Courtney Captain’s night as he played his final home game as a Pirate.  In front of an impressive crowd of more than 5,500, Captain took control early hitting four thee-pointers within the first five minutes.  Captain’s hot shooting netted him a career high 24 points by halftime, and gave the Pirates an 11-point halftime advantage.    East Carolina would allow UTEP to get back in the game in the second half, setting up a storybook ending.  Down two points with less than 30 seconds to play, East Carolina had one more chance. Courtney Captain had been the focus of the UTEP defense in the second half, and had only two points since halftime before he drained the biggest shot of his career.  Captain hit a go-ahead three-pointer with eight seconds to play, and one final defensive stand was enough for ECU to win over UTEP 79-78 on Senior Night.

Continuing the basketball theme, I don’t think anyone could have predicted the success of the ECU Lady Pirates.  Coach Sharon Baldwin-Tener’s team (16-13, 11-5) won its final seven regular season games, vaulting themselves into third place in the league standings.  As one of the top four seeds, the Pirates have earned their first ever bye in the first round of the conference tournament.  The seven straight wins included a win over league regular season champion Tulane.  Good luck to the Lady Pirates in the conference tournament beginning March 1st. 

The ECU hockey team has seen a quick rise to success.  In their inaugural season last year, the ice hockey Pirates went to the championship round of the conference tournament.  The Pirates went on to dominate the league in this their second year, winning the regular season championship with a 14-1 league record.  The Pirates had the benefit of a first round bye in this year’s conference tournament, and looked forward to Appalachian State in the tournament semifinals, a team the Pirates beat twice this year.  When the Pirates found out that Appalachian State would be their opponent after they beat Clemson in the opening round, a berth in the championship game seemed a mere formality.  It wasn’t.  East Carolina lost to ASU 5-2, ending their season in disappointing fashion. 

The ECU baseball team also turned things around with a sweep at this weekend's ECU invitational.  The Pirates beat St. Johns, Washington, and previously unbeaten Duke and in doing so, got the season back on track.  Another test awaits at next weekend's Keith LeClair Classic. ECU will face Pepperdine, NC State, and Western Carolina at the round-robin style tournament starting March 2nd. 

It was a wild, wacky, sometimes backwards weekend in ECU sports. It just goes to show that no matter what the records are, no matter what the predictions or the experts say, none of that accounts for heart, determination, and the will to win.  And as they say, “that’s why they play the game.”  

Josh Spence